My friend, Marcela Staudenmaier, passed the children's book writer/illustrator blog tour baton on to me this week and I’m honored to take it from her. Marcela and I met at RISD and have been SCBWI conference buddies ever since. Learn more about Marcela and her beautiful, thoughtful work at:
What am I working on now?
I’ve just finished an almost year long re-do of Oma’s Garden, the first picture book that I’ve both written and illustrated, and have sent it back out to the world. I’ve also been creating new pieces to update my portfolio.
Spending time with my kids this summer is providing me with plenty of ideas and inspiration for my next story and/or image. Listening to their thoughts and observing how their minds work as they interact with the world around them proves to be some of my best research, and the most fun.
How does my work differ from others in the genre?
I came to writing from the art world. Most of my art background is in landscape painting and portraits, that’s my comfort zone and what I tend to write toward.
After living overseas in Europe and Asia, I’m drawn to both the simple lines and natural subject matter of Asian art and the deep perspective and use of light in more traditional European art.
I also use my experiences as a classroom teacher, memories of my own childhood and my children’s lives for access to some of those oh-so-important childhood highs and lows.
All of these experiences influence and inform my "voice".
Why do I write what I do?
Wisdom. Nature. Simplicity. Innocence. I love children's stories for these reasons, especially ones that have a timeless, sweet and subtle message. I think children are full of wisdom and I am always impressed with their self-assuredness, honesty, and joy. I want to honor their important role in the world through my work.
Although my style is very different from theirs, Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss were some of my favorites as a child and their wit and wisdom continue to delight me. Where the Sidewalk Ends, Yertle the Turtle, and The Sneetches are ones I still love to read.
How does your writing process work?
My process consists of a lot of folding laundry, putting away groceries, brushing teeth, and watching my kids’ tennis practice; in other words, a lot of not-writing. After reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, I feel more confident in this being a valid piece of the work.
For me, the most important thing is the story arc. I like to start by writing down everything in a plot outline. It's helpful for me to know where I'm going before I begin to play with images and words. After I have organized my ideas and I’m confident in the story arc, I will start laying out my 32 pages. I do this with very loose sketches and descriptions of what will happen on each page. Then, almost like an archaeologist chipping away at long buried treasure, I begin the back and forth between the actually words and the images, tweaking each until the final piece starts to emerge, .
Making small dummy books at different stages along the way helps me work on pacing, variety and consistency.
My final art is almost always done in oil and/or acrylic paint, with some digital tweaks here and there.
Next week my sweet and talented friend Sarita Rich (see below), another RISD-CE alum, will be posting about her process.
Thanks for reading!