August Q & A

Hey Literary Llama fans! If you follow my Instagram, I recently hosted a Q & A session, and there were a bunch of fantastic questions that you asked. I always try and respond to the questions that you leave in the comments of my posts, but sometimes it's not easy to give the long answer on Instagram, or your question was left on an older picture and I miss it. Keep reading for the answers...


@nahalreads asked How long does it take to draw something for a post on average? :)

- On average, I try to draw something in 30 minutes or less, like the Dominos Pizza delivery of old. But really it depends on what I'm drawing. Some designs are simple and don't require a lot of precise work, like the string lights I drew over my August TBR pic at the beginning of the month. That was very quick. Others, like the Fangirl cover art I recreated or anything Harry Potter related usually take a bit longer because the images are iconic and I'm trying to keep it recognizable.


@bookosaurus_rex asked When did you start your account?


@the_pumpkin_reads asked How did you come up with your theme? Was it a try and see kind of thing or did you know from Jump how you wanted to present yourself?

- I started my account on February 22nd, 2016. The first month's pictures were very all over the place. I was still trying to decide what I liked and how I wanted to set up my pictures. I played with colors and angles and looking back, I don't love a lot of them but at the time I was having fun and I don't regret any of the photos. It was fun playing with all the different ideas. The beginning of April was where I felt that I found my stride. And it wasn't until the end of April that I started to incorporate the chalkboard elements.


@redrchl.reads asked Your drawings are fantastic! Do you have a chalk wall just for Instagram art?

- I actually use a large piece of chalkboard posterboard that I bought at Jo-anns (a fabric and craft store here in the US). It allows me to lay it flat on a table to draw and then set it up for the photo. It also means I can pack it out of the way when I'm done. Very versatile.


@witchyreader asked How did you decide to incorporate the idea of drawing on a chalkboard into your feed? Your bookstagram is one of my absolute favorites because it's simply creative and magic. And unique!

- The chalkboard thing came in when the living room needed to be painted. I knew that the new wall color wasn't what I wanted for the background of my pictures. So I had to come up with a moveable and removeable alternative. I saw a picture of this dark moody chalkboard wall as a background in a professional cake picture on Pinterest and I loved it. When I saw the big flexible chalkboard posterboard at the craft store, I decided to give it a try, and the rest just evolved from there. Right now my background has this bluish glow that I really love because it just makes everything pop, but in the future I might go darker and use a a deeper wood color for the base. I like that there are still areas to explore.


@mcfrank_author asked How do you take your pics?

- I wish that I could say that I use some really cool camera equipment but I just use my iPhone 6s. Besides the placement of the books and props, my biggest external element is the lighting. Natural light is a must and I adjust the shades/drapes to filter the amount of light that hits my set-up. Then I use VSCO to edit and then "stamp" my photo using PHONTO. It makes it easier and faster to just post it to Instagram when it's already all on my phone. I'm usually still tweaking the photo using Instagram's editor up till the moment that I post it.


@nirahamdy asked How do you manage to read a lot AND have a life? Because this is goals for me :D

- The easy answer is that I have no life outside of books! But that's not completely true. My priorities are just different. I don't have a husband or children and it's not really in my plan to change that. My time is my own and I devote a lot of that to reading. I've also already finished college, but when I was in school I didn't read hardly at all, maybe a book every few months. So I think I'm still pushing myself to catch up from the years of book drought.

I'm also lucky in that I don't fall asleep while reading, and I definitely sacrifice sleep to read more and I probably watch less TV than the average American. I've become really creative in the ways that I read. I never used to like audiobooks, couldn't find one that worked for me, so I assumed that I just hated all audiobooks. In the last year, though, I gave them another shot and I finally found ones that work for me. So I incorporate audiobooks into my everyday, when I'm driving, on the treadmill, or doing chores.

And sometimes it's as simple as taking a book with you wherever you go because at some point your day will probably stall and you'll be waiting in line for something or other, and you might as well read while you wait.


@aalexfitton asked What book would you recommend that everyone should read? (:

- Oh, goodness that's a hard question! I think the easy answer would be The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It's just so well written and unique. I've recommended it to teenagers and adults, and everyone, no matter their age, seems to react to it with a wealth of feeling. It's incredibly universal.


@kittencece asked Has there ever been a scene in a book that you have wanted to illustrate? There have been a few scenes in my life that have made me wanna learn to be artistic just so I could illustrate them. XD

- I don't know if there's ever been a full scene, but as I'm reading there's usually an element that will pop out at me that makes me think, "that would look good". Something like a dagger or a tree. It usually something simple or small.

Oh, although the other day I did start thinking about the scene in the first Harry Potter when he was flying through all the that's knocking around my brain now.


@watermelanies asked Have you always been artistically inclined so the chalk drawings are no problem? Or did you learn how to draw? If it's the latter, tips please!

- I think I was more surprised than anyone when I started drawing in chalk. I originally had all these minimalistic plans for the art and stencil ideas in case I just couldn't pull it off. And if that failed, I would just use it as a plain background.

I did a circus tent that was pretty easy all in all, that worked really well, but the first big chance I took (although it seems small in retrospect) was a pair of crossed rapier swords for The Three Musketeers. And it didn't look half bad. I thought, okay, maybe I can draw, who knew! With pencil and paper, I'm incredibly mediocre. I have a degree in fashion design, so art and drawing was a part of my coursework, but I didn't excel by any means. I won't even tell you what one of my teachers expressed about my drawing abilities (hint: not good). But chalk somehow works for me. I look for reference pictures online and then just eyeball it, trying to recreate a bit here and there and then fill in the rest from my brain. I realized it was just about committing to the lines I was drawing and resisting erasing and over-analyzing it. I will layer several lines on top of each other most times to get the curve that I really want, but the messy layering actually pops better on camera even when it looks strange in person.

I don't know that I have any tips beyond just repetition and using reference pictures. Eventually you get more confident and fall into a rhythm. asked Do you own or have you ever had a llama? Were you in 4H?

- HA! No, I've never owned a llama and I've never been a part of 4-H. I don't even remember when my love for llamas started. It's always just been this thing. A friend's mom calls me Little Llama and I call her Mama Llama. I have a knitted stuffed llama and apart from a couple other small knick-knacks, I don't have any other llama-like things. It's not an obsession or anything I collect either. It's just a little piece of my personality. And when I was deciding on a name I loved the alliteration of The Literary Llama.


@step1caffeinestep2read asked How do you still gain popularity if you don't like the same books as a lot of other bookstagrammers?

- There are two main components that I've found in hugely successful bookstagram accounts. One is the quality of photos. Some people just want to see pretty pictures, and while the book being featured may factor, a lot of times it's just the picture as a whole that people really respond to.

The second thing is interaction. You get back what you put into it. Creating discussions with other bookstagrammers is incredibly important, stimulating, and just fun. Read and comment on other's posts. Create questions of the day and interact with the responses. They may not have read the book that you just read but maybe the color of the cover will cause someone to pause and then ask you about it. You'll actually find more people than you thought who actually do read the same books or who have your books on their TBR list.

It also helps to use hashtags to search out people who have posted about your favorite books before. When they don't come to you then you have to go to them! If your goal is to just be popular then it will be a slow and lonely road. It's much more fun to make friends!


@jojomojo117 asked How did you get that book to "fly" in your June 15 post?

-Ah, you're going to make the magician ruin the trick! Ok, I'll tell you... The simplest answer is likely the correct one and it's all about perception. All the pieces that I use for my photo set-ups are moveable. I took the chalkboard and laid it flat on the ground and balanced the book in an open position, placing the little cow so it was on it's side against the ground. The white slatted board I balanced on it's side using my hand just out of frame. Then I had to play with the angles a lot to get everything to look like it was just another picture! You're actually looking down at the book, not straight ahead....and now the magic is gone


@brenda1005 asked Hi I'm Brenda from asia. I'm not sure what to ask but I have a question. Is it hard to read from contemporary novels to scifi / fantasy novels? How did you tried to adapt to it? Any tips? Because I'm trying my best to read as much as I could.

- I don't really have any trouble switching between genres. Sometimes I'm in the mood for a specific genre though, and I'll binge read a bunch of Fantasy or Romance all at once. Mostly, I try and switch it up. I have a pretty big TBR shelf and I love so many different types of books that there are always several genres lying around. If I've just finished a contemporary romance, then I try and pick up a sci-fi next so that I won't get bored or feel like I'm in a rut.

But my reading habits aside, I think the the most important advice I could give is to not force yourself to read something that you're not interested in. When you're not feeling a book, then switch to something else, and maybe come back to the other one another time (unless you don't like it because the book is just horrible). Keep your momentum going. When you aren't liking what you're reading you find more and more reasons to not pick up the book at all and then you end up not reading anything. It's not a failure to set a book aside and move on to another one. Reading is supposed to be enjoyable, so read what you love when you feel like loving it. asked What is your favorite quote, and why is it your favorite?

- There are a lot of great quotes from books and about books. I actually keep a journal of my favorite ones and occassionally send them out in snail mail to my friends. My all-time favorite though, is a very simple one from Thomas Jefferson, who said, "I cannot live without books".

If ever there was a more true statement I have yet to find it.


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