Summer didn’t write this post. That’s the first thing to know.
This weekend, Summer is helping host the Willamette Writers Conference which, due to COVID-19, happens online this year. She asked me, the webmaster (and also her husband), to guest post today.
So, you’re in for a treat!
Because I’m going to give you a look into the behind the scenes of Summer Bird Stories. All the things Summer will never share with you because she’s an introvert and stresses about anything and everything she shares online.
Lucky you! I’m not an introvert, and you deserve to know all the effort and amazing work that goes into maintaining a site that includes over 800 short children’s stories, 300 cartoons, 70 DIY Art School segments, 17 videos and all the other artistic things that Summer experiments with.
With an intro like that, you know this post will be packed with insights and revelations for anyone who wants to share their creative content online.
Summer has always dreamed of writing books. Books people read. Books that envelop readers in the worlds she creates.
And she has written a few of them. They’re good. They’re fun and original. But no one besides me, her siblings and her dad have ever read any of them.
Because she’s scared. She worries none of you will want to read them. She fears they just aren’t ready to publish.
On October 24, 2016, my phenomenal wife decided she needed to break out of the fear-shell where her writing lived for so many years.
So she started publishing a blog with some of her writing.
Enter summerbirdstories.com. Yeah, the website you’re at right now.
Well, sort of. It all originally started at stbirdblog, which was the WordPress site Summer started before she decided to get a website of her own.
(I know you already clicked it, but there isn’t much to see there. It only lasted a few months.)
For the first year, Summer posted a short story with a hand-drawn illustration.
Every. Single. Day.
These stories are wonderful! She jumped in and ran with it.
Since that pivotal day, Summer has written and published over 800 short stories on this website. Even the illustrations have evolved from simple ball-point pen sketches into full watercolor paintings!
The stories are all over the board in creative genres. She has (among others):
So go on! Get lost in those stories! You can come back in a few hours to see all the other things Summer has created. Or keep reading now and enjoy the stories later.
By the way, as a writer, Summer loves (and dreads) when people leave her comments or feedback on her work. So make sure to let her know what you think of her stories!
Websites evolve. And so does Summer. So it’s very natural that Summer Bird Stories became much more than a blog of short stories.
Summer became a cartoonist.
According to Summer, she isn’t funny. Which is funny because she is. Her humor flavors everything she creates.
However, no matter how many times I reassure her that she is hilarious, she doesn’t believe it.
She decided she needed to practice humor. This struck me as a stunning and novel idea. As a Dad, I never needed to practice humor because dad jokes don’t require a sense of humor.
She bought books about humor and studied them. And I mean “Studied” them.
One day, she was reading Calvin and Hobbes. She turned to me and said, “I think I’ll start drawing cartoons to practice my humor.”
On the first anniversary of Summer’s website, Summer added cartoons. Two cartoons each week.
PRO TIP: Some of the cartoons near the beginning had three panels, but those just don’t display well as thumbnails on a website.
A few month’s later, the writer’s miracle occurred. Because Summer didn’t consider herself a cartoonist, it was easier for her to submit her cartoons for publication. She sent several of her cartoons into the New Era Magazine. She knew they would be rejected because, according to her, “I’m just not funny!”
Except, they weren’t rejected. Not only did they agree to publish some of them–they paid her for them!
And they continue to pay her for them. Check out some of her published cartoons through this link.
As webmaster, I must admit my own shortcomings on this one. She’s had more cartoons published since the last time I updated that page. I’ll get on it. Promise!
When they bought the cartoons, they asked us if we would color them or if they would need to find someone to do it. We (meaning me) had already started digitally coloring some of her illustrations so we said, “Sure. We’ll color them.”
All of the cartoons on her site have been colored digitally since that day.
Maybe the next time Summer lets me do a guest post—assuming this post doesn’t burn that bridge—I can show you how to take a hand-drawn cartoon and turn it into a digitally-colored one.
Do It Yourself Art School
Summer regrets not studying art in college. All of her skill in art comes from her own personal grind with occasional help from other artists. (Thank you, Kathy Decker!)
At its heart, Summer Bird Stories is a blog. But for the first two years, there weren’t any blog posts.
Summer started blogging about what she does to create art and stay sane while doing it.
She calls it her DIY Art School.
I’m going to take a little credit (and shame) for the development of the blog posts on the site.
What you never see on this site—for a good reason I’ll explain in a moment—is all of the extra effort Summer makes to improve her craft. She spends several hours each day writing, painting, sketching and brainstorming ideas.
Part of that effort includes studying artists whose work she admires. This includes John Tenniel, Quentin Blake, James Christensen, Bill Watterson and many others. She spends time each day trying to reproduce their illustrations.
She’s incredible at it!
And I really wanted you to see it. So much so that I pressured Summer to share that work on her blog.
For a few months, she posted the work she did to practice like the great illustrators.
Then we realized the dangerous waters you tread when you post your own reproductions of other people’s work…even if you did it without any copying, tracing or scanning. It’s often illegal.
Thankfully no lawsuits happened, but we tried to remove all of that art from the posts. So if some of the posts seem a little “stripped,” they are. And it’s my fault.
Now, if you want to see that kind of work she does, you’ll have to come visit us at home. It’s the only way.
Lately, the blog posts in the DIY Art School have become a great way for Summer to share anything she wants to share, including favorite family recipes, crafts, etc.
For Summer’s latest adventure, she makes videos and posts them on YouTube. Here’s a link to her YouTube channel.
Each of these videos includes one of Summer’s short stories, narrated by the author herself. While you listen to her storytelling, you get to see her create a watercolor illustration for the story.
I think they deserve a look from you. Check them out. Each video is about 5 minutes and well-worth your time.
Here’s the latest video:
Now, the behind the scenes for those considering something similar.
These videos take time!
Here’s a brief rundown of the time Summer and I spend to produce just one of these videos. Buckle up!
- 15-30 minutes recording the narration a few times
- 60-75 minutes to paint the illustration
- 45-60 minutes to edit the narration
- 60-90 minutes to create the subtitles
- 4-6 hours to edit the video, add the narration and render the video
- 30 minutes to post the video to YouTube (and Facebook)
So you can see these are not a light lift.
This is the most recent innovation on the website so please let us know what you think!
There are so many more things I want to tell you in this post, but I’m lucky if you even made it this far. This was a long post!
I hope you now realize the effort and talent Summer puts into this website. And we sincerely hope you enjoy the results.
If you do enjoy them, please share summerbirdstories.com with your friends and anyone you think would like her creativity. Social media links or a link from your website are always the best way to show how much you appreciate good content.
Shameless plug: If you need illustrations, digital inking or coloring, video or audio editing, we’d be happy to talk commissions. Contact us through the link below!