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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: author-illustrator, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 12 of 12
1. In Memory: Yumi Heo

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Obituary: Yumi Heo by Shannon Maughan from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "[Henry] Holt’s Laura Godwin shared this remembrance:

'Yumi was extremely gracious, enthusiastic, and inquisitive,' she said. 'I loved the way she incorporated ‘mistakes’ into her art rather than erasing or deleting them.
"If she drew a squiggle where she hadn’t intended, it would show up in the final art as a tree or a rabbit or whatever struck her fancy. She was part artist, part magician—and always an inspiration.'"
Yumi Heo Memorial Fund from Go Fund Me. Peek:

"Please show your support in honor of internationally loved children’s book author and Illustrator and creator of Polka Dot Penguin Pottery, Yumi Heo.
"Your support will help continue two of Yumi’s dreams, the steady training of her daughter as a professional figure skater and the founding of a scholarship program to help students in Korea who have big dreams and little resources."

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2. Author-Illustrator Interview: Ambelin Kwaymullina on Justice, Hope & Her Creative Family

Sample chapter from Candlewick Press
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

The second of a four-installment dialogue with Ambelin and Cynthia.  

Our focus is on the creative life and process, speculative fiction, diversity, privilege, indigenous literature, and books for young readers.

Yesterday, Ambelin spoke on ethics, the writing process and own voices.

We have children’s-YA literature and the law in common. That’s actually a pretty common combination here in the states. Why do you think there are so many people involved in both?

Well, I’ve had some of my law students suggest the law is so horribly dry that it drives people to being creative in order to escape its clutches (these are generally the students who are studying law because their parents thought it was a good idea).

But for me at least, I think the reason I studied law and the reason I write are the same. In both realms, I am seeking justice – and justice, in Aboriginal societies, generally equates to balance, not just between human beings but between all forms of life (and everything lives).

I write speculative fiction because I want to write about the possibility of defeating injustice; to write about the terrible things that were (and are) while imagining what could be.

The oppressive law I wrote about in the Tribe series divides people into three categories: those without an ability (Citizens); those with an ability (Illegals); and those whose ability is considered benign (Exempts).

This is not an invented law. It is based on the Western Australian Natives (Citizenship Rights) Act 1944, a piece of legislation that purported to offer Aboriginal people ‘citizenship’ by exempting us from racially-based restrictions that only applied to my ancestors in the first place because they were Aboriginal.

In the Tribe series, this law is ultimately defeated by an alliance of the marginalised and the privileged, and by a heroine whose power is to identify and sustain the connections between all life.

And in writing of connections, I am writing of something that is central to the law in Aboriginal legal systems where (at its broadest) law is the processes of living in the world that sustain the world.

You clearly articulate the impact of white privilege on writing and writers, noting the negative impact on the work of Native voices and POC voices. What would you say to those Native and POC writers who may find themselves angry, frustrated, hurt or discouraged by these dynamics?

First: it’s not you. Exclusion is not something you are inventing in your head and you are neither unlucky nor unworthy.

It helps in this context to form connections with other Indigenous writers as well as with writers of colour, LGBTI writers, and writers with a disability.

You are likely to hear stories of authors getting similar comments across different contexts (e.g: you’re not writing to the Indigenous experience … this story is too Asian … gay books don’t sell … we’ve already published a ‘disability book’ this year).

It matters to have a network of people with whom to share both the good and bad experiences; and perhaps most importantly, to understand that you are not alone.

Second, never forget how to laugh. Some of the comments I’ve listed above have been part of the experience of other writers that they’ve laughed about with me – not because these comments are not discriminatory and hurtful, but because laughter has always been one of the ways in which marginalised peoples have dealt with pain.

Third, define success in your own terms. We all know what ‘success’ is supposed to be in literary industry terms: book sales and/or critical acclaim (preferably both). I’m not saying we shouldn’t aspire to that. But I also think that if marginalised writers define our success solely in the terms set by an industry that consistently privileges white, straight, cis-gendered people who don’t have a disability, we are also buying into an underlying lie.

The lie is that if we can just prove we are good enough we will be treated equally. But once equality has to be earned, it is no longer equality.

So I think it’s important that each of us define success according to what matters to us – and for me, it’s being a person that my ancestors would be proud of.

Book sales wouldn’t overly interest them. But honouring who they were, and who I am; treating cultural knowledge with respect; helping other Indigenous writers whenever and wherever I can – these are the kinds of things they’d be concerned about.

Fourth: be hopeful. I am. I locate my hope in people, and there are many, many people working towards a world in which all voices have an equal opportunity to speak and all stories are equally heard.

I think change will come, and in the meantime, I’m proud to be a part of a global community of voices, marginalised and privilege alike, that are speaking out for justice.

While you don’t feel it’s appropriate for non-Indigenous writers to reflect your community in first person or deep third, you are open to them writing secondary characters. Why does your opinion differ depending on how centered the character’s perspective is in the story?

Ambelin's desk
I don’t think it’s appropriate for non-Indigenous people to speak as if they are Indigenous, especially given the operation of privilege which means that non-Indigenous voices will be heard in a way that Indigenous voices are not.

For me, writing from an ‘outsider’ perspective (so not in first or deep third) is to respect boundaries; to accept there are limits on what we can know of others and how we should represent others in our own work.

When I write of experiences of marginalisation not my own, I do it from an outsider perspective – reflecting that this is much as I can understand and that understanding may of course be wrong; I am not suggesting that I know what it is to see the world from an ‘insider’ view of a group to which I don’t belong. I think the spaces must be created for everyone to speak to their own worlds, and I want to be part of making those spaces a reality.

What advice do you have for non-Indigenous writers in crafting those secondary characters?

I think something you’ve said is the best place to start – you’ve spoken of the need for writers to read 100 books by Indigenous people before writing about us.

I agree. No one should be writing an Indigenous character without being familiar with Indigenous stories (not the ones told about us but the ones told by us).

It’s also important to ensure that any stories people are reading are ethically published because there is a vast body of Indigenous stories that were taken by anthropologists and others and are now in the public domain without the informed consent (or sometimes even the knowledge) of the Indigenous peoples concerned.

The easiest way to check that a story is appropriately published is to see who holds the copyright; where Indigenous peoples hold copyright in their own stories it is at least some indication that they control the text.

In addition to reading stories, I’d say, become familiar with representation issues. Engage with the online dialogue happening around representation and children’s literature as it relates to Indigenous peoples. There are no shortage of voices speaking in this space.

And finally: words spoken about marginalised peoples have a weight and a cost. But if you are not a member of that group, then it’s a weight that you don’t carry and a cost that you don’t pay.

So don’t measure the impact of your words by how they will be read by people like you. Measure them by how they’ll be read by the people you’re writing about.

How did you learn your craft as a writer and illustrator?

By doing! I have no formal training in writing or illustration. But nor do a lot of Australian Indigenous writers and illustrators, and we have been storytellers for thousands of years.

So to learn craft I look to the work of Indigenous writers and artists, both within Australia and elsewhere, as well as to the ancient teachings of my people.

What inspired you to direct your talents toward creating stories for young readers?

In my YA series, I was writing about a superhero, so it had to be about a teenager. I don’t believe grown ups have it in us to save the world, because we are spectacularly failing to do so.

But in the young I see all the hope for the future – they are more interconnected, quick to embrace new ideas, and passionate about fighting anything they perceive as an injustice.

They’re also more honest, especially the children for whom I write picture books. When they like a book, they write me lovely letters telling me how they sleep with the book under their pillow and begging me to write more. When they don’t like it they’re equally forthright.

People ask sometimes whether its difficult as an author to deal with bad reviews, to which I say: try writing for six-year-olds. Every once in a while, children send me letters about one or the other of my picture books that begin something like this: “My teacher made me read your book. I didn’t like it.”

I’ve had a few of these letters that went on for ten pages or more, and since that length is like War and Peace from a six-year-old, it means I’ve had kids hate my work enough to send me the child equivalent of Tolstoy.

Adverse reviews from grown-ups are nothing in comparison.

What was your initial inspiration for The Tribe series?

Sample chapter from Candlewick Press
My brother Blaze. He came up to me one day and said, “I’ve got an awesome title for a book. It’s called The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf.”

I said, “That’s a pretty good title – what’s the story?’

To which Blaze replied, “Oh, there’s no story. Just the name, and I can’t be bothered writing it so I’m giving to you.”

Having bestowed the title of the novel upon me, he wandered off, leaving me to start thinking about the story. (And for anyone who’s read any of the Tribe series, the character of Jaz is very like my brother Blaze).

What were the challenges—literary, research, psychological and logistical—of bringing the stories to life?

I think the primary challenge is this: in so many ways, I wasn’t writing fiction. A post-apocalyptic world is not a fantasy for Indigenous peoples; the colonial apocalypse has already happened and much of The Tribe series is drawn from Australian colonial history.

Much of it too is drawn from the experiences of my ancestors and that is why hope runs so strongly through the narrative. They held on to hope through hard, cruel times when all their choices were taken away from them.

Indigenous peoples are so often spoken of as victims and I certainly don’t wish to minimise the suffering and the multi-generational trauma inflicted upon us by the colonial project. But the very fact that the Indigenous peoples of the world survived determined efforts to destroy us demonstrates our great strength.

I think the ability to hold onto hope is part of that strength and its something I try to honour.

You’ve created several picture books with Sally Morgan. Could you tell us about your work together?

Ambelin with her creative family
So, Sally is my mum. I’ve also done books with my two brothers, Blaze and Zeke, and the four of us have written together as a family. We’re all authors and artists, and we always give each other an honest opinion – sometimes this results in one of us storming off (usually me or Zeke, we’re both excellent stormers).

Generally, once we’ve had a chance to think about the criticism we come creeping sheepishly back and agree that yes, actually, that particular portion of the narrative (which we were previously so proud of) does indeed need more work.

I think from the outside our working process probably looks chaotic; we all talk at the same time and over each other; generally, the person with the best story gets to hold the floor until they get boring and someone else interrupts. If you want a place in the conversation in my family, you have to be prepared to earn it.

What can your readers look forward to next?

I’m working on three YA novels right now, but the one I’ll finish first is a book I’m writing with my brother Zeke.

It’s a mystery with fantasy elements that’s told from the perspective of three Indigenous female protagonists. It’s been a difficult book to write in places because terrible things happen in it, but its ultimately a story about the power of young Indigenous women and how they find their way home.

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3. 2016 SCBWI Bologna Author-Illustrator Interview: Elizabeth O. Dulemba

By Elisabeth Norton
for SCBWI Bologna 2016
and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Elizabeth O. Dulemba is an award-winning children's author-illustrator with more than two dozen titles to her credit, including her debut historical fiction, A Bird on Water Street (Little Pickle, 2014), which has been awarded thirteen prestigious literary honors, including Georgia Author of the Year and a Green Earth Book Award Honor.

Elizabeth splits her time between Roanoke, Virginia, where she teaches Picture Book Design as visiting associate professor at Hollins University in the MFA in Children's Book Writing and Illustrating program, and Scotland, where she is currently pursuing an MFA in Illustration at the University of Edinburgh.

Elizabeth maintains and active blog where she hosts author/illustrator guest posts each week and gives away free coloring pages. Her weekly newsletter has more than 3,600 subscribers.

Elizabeth, welcome to Cynsations! Thank you so much for taking time to talk with me today.

Thanks so much for having me!

Can you tell us a bit more about your background? How long have you been an illustrator? What led you to pursuing a career in children’s books, and specifically in illustration?

Hoo boy. I’ve wanted to illustrate picture books since I was a little kid. I used to stare at Garth Williams’ illustrations in The Golden Book of Elves and Fairies (1951) and wish I could create that same magic with my art.

As a kid, I always had a drawing pad and pencil with me. Of course, back then, I didn’t know real people actually made books. And even though the adults in my life knew I was an artist and supported me with lessons my entire life, they steered me towards a more stable lifestyle.

I became a graphic designer for many years. I was always in-house illustrator, though, and I never stopped dreaming about creating books.

When I married my husband, I got the chance. We moved to be together, and I went freelance while I pursued my dream to illustrate books. Three years in, I got my first contract to illustrate The Prince’s Diary (Lee & Low, 2005).

You have illustrated both your own stories, and those of others. Is there a creative difference for you as an illustrator when you are illustrating your own work, versus illustrating someone else’s work?

It took me seven years to get my first contract as both author and illustrator, Soap, Soap, Soap (Raven Tree, 2009). Until that time, I had a lot of fun coming up with images for other people’s writing - I still do. But yeah, it’s a blast to come up with my own text and images.

Heck, I imagine it will be fun to have another illustrator use my words at some point. It’s all about telling stories and creating! I love all of it!

What mediums do you work in?

I’m currently pursuing an MFA in Illustration at the University of Edinburgh College of Art. It’s an introspective and experimental time for me. I feel like I’m in the thick of a creative chrysalis at the moment.

So while I was digital for my first 15 years, I’ve been working with more traditional media of late, getting messy with paint up to my elbows.

We’ll see what style steps forward as my fave. I don’t know yet!

Does this vary depending on the type of project?

Yes! I tend to follow the vision of the story rather than stick to one particular personal style (so far). Although, I’ve been told that when you look at my works on the whole, they all look like mine. Ha!

Do you have a favorite medium or illustration tool?

Elizabeth's studio
Not at the moment! I’ve been leaning towards dip pen and ink with watercolors. But I just discovered dyes, and I don’t want to throw out the computer altogether, so we’ll see!

Can you tell us about your typical creative process?

I’m right in the thick of a new project, so I can share exactly!

Right now, I’m in the research stage. I’m looking at images, costumes, architecture, landscapes, color palettes, trying to soak in the looks of the story I’ll be working on - get it set in my head. I broke out the text into the key moments I think I’ll need to illustrate. And I’ve done some very rough thumbnails to get an idea of how the story will visually break out.

Next, I’ll start doing sketches - tons and tons and tons of sketches! Slowly, I’ll start working out my compositions and get bigger and tighter with those. Then I’ll start playing with whatever media I choose. I love the rendering stage the best, so I can’t wait to get to that!

Does it vary depending on what kind of project you are working on?

Y’know, not really. I was sitting here doing online research, and for a minute I thought, “I’m not drawing, why am I wasting time?” And then I realized that I always do it this way and I’m not wasting time at all!



What is a typical creative session like for you?

There’s no such thing as a typical creative session! It’s always different.

Even though my processes remain similar, I might be researching, sketching, painting, digitally rendering - all while listening to music, an audiobook, or requiring absolute quiet so that I can concentrate. It all depends on what stage I’m in.

Do you have a dedicated place that you like to create? Has that changed for you over the years?

Right now, my dedicated space is my desk at the university. It’s a big change from my dedicated studio/office bedroom in the states! But I love the energy of being surrounded by creative students.

I also love that I have to walk through beautiful Edinburgh every day to get here (1.6 miles from my flat). My view is of 17th and 18th century buildings, and lunch often involves meandering into one of the loveliest and oldest areas of the city (Grassmarket). Yeah - it rocks.

You are also the author of a middle grade novel, A Bird on Water Street (Little Pickle, 2014). What was that creative process like for you, in contrast to the very visual medium of picture books?

Completely different. I didn’t realize I was writing a novel when I started it, but dozens of interviews, rewrites, and ten years on, I’m a novelist!

A Bird on Water Street has gotten fantastic reviews and even won 13 literary awards and honors! I’m so proud of the novel, it’s done some wonderfully positive things for the community in which it took place, and for me personally. It has its own web page at http://ABirdOnWaterStreet.com.

As far as the creative process when writing - it has to be dead quiet outside my head because it is so loud inside my head! Now that the writing muse has been set loose, there’s no stopping her.

Sadly, she doesn’t get along very well with my illustration muse. They are constantly battling for my time.

Do you have plans for more middle grade works?

I do! I have about three or four other novels that are at various stages. It’s hard to concentrate on novels right now, though. School is keeping me unbelievably busy, and I don’t get unified chunks of mental space where I can focus on one project.

Instead, I’m working on dozens of projects all the time right now (including personal projects - mostly picture books - and school projects). But spring break is coming, then two months of summer before I head to Hollins University where I teach in the MFA in Children’s Book Writing and Illustrating program, then over a month free before school starts back.

I’m planning to do some concentrated creating in those windows!

I loved your recent TED talk. Like you, my husband and I sold our house and most of our possessions to make a move from the U.S. to Europe. For those who haven’t seen your TED talk yet, can you tell us what led you to make that move?

Thanks! I’ve received the nicest emails from folks who feel the same way or have experienced something similar. It’s been a tangent from my children’s books and school studies, but equally as gratifying. I think a lot of folks are experience-based people trapped in stuff-based lifestyles and could do what I did… I sold almost everything I own to move overseas and go back to school.

Truly, the best way to understand my journey is to actually watch my TED talk.

While it’s not specifically about children’s books, it describes the motivation behind how I live my life, which is all about children’s books!


So you’re currently studying children’s illustration in the masters of fine arts program at Edinburgh University in Edinburgh, Scotland. Can you tell us more about your plans once you complete that program?

I’m going to pursue a PhD in Picture Books! Several reasons have come together in my life to make an advanced degree make sense for me. And who knows, I might actually become an expert!

Through it all, I’ll continue to teach at Hollins University in the summers (it’s a summer MFA program).

After that, I really don’t know. That’s one of the nice things about being mobile. I don’t feel trapped by anything anymore. The future is exciting and shiny!

What is the one piece of advice you would give an aspiring illustrator or author?

Follow your heart, not the trends. The only thing you can control is yourself. Heck, you can’t even always control your own creativity.

Be willing to jump down rabbit holes and see where creativity leads you. More often than not, your instincts will take you someplace good - especially if you get your pesky brain out of the way.


Thank you so much for spending time with us today! It’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to you.

Thank you! I’m honored!

Cynsational Notes

Elisabeth Norton grew up in Alaska, lived for many years and Texas, and after a brief sojourn in England, now lives with her family between the Alps and the Jura in Switzerland.

She writes for middle grade readers and serves as the regional advisor for the Swiss chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

When not writing, she can be found walking the dogs, playing board games, and spending time with family and friends. Find her on Twitter @fictionforge.

The Bologna 2016 Interview series is coordinated by Angela Cerrito, SCBWI’s Assistant International Advisor and a Cynsational Reporter in Europe and beyond.

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4. Video: Author-Illustrator Marla Frazee

From Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations


Marla Frazee from Adam Goodwin on Vimeo.

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5. 2016: SCBWI Bologna Illustrator Interview: Paul O. Zelinsky

By Elisabeth Norton
for SCBWI Bologna 2016
and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Paul O. Zelinsky grew up in Wilmette, Illinois; the son of a mathematics professor father and a medical illustrator mother. He drew compulsively from an early age, but did not know until college that this would be his career. 

As a sophomore at Yale College, he enrolled in a course on the history and practice of the picture book, co-taught by an English professor and Maurice Sendak. This experience inspired Paul to point himself in the direction of children's books. His first book appeared in 1978, since which time he has become recognized as one of the most inventive and critically successful artists in the field. 

He now lives with his wife in Brooklyn, New York. They have two grown daughters.

Among many other awards and prizes, he received the 1998 Caldecott Medal for his illustrated retelling of Rapunzel, as well as Caldecott Honors for three of his books: Hansel and Gretel (1985), Rumpelstiltskin (1987), and Swamp Angel (1995).

Spring is the season of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, so I thought I would focus on the business side of illustration today. Can you tell us about how you as an illustrator are selected to work on a picture book project?

Other than through the occasional subliminal suggestion I plant in the illustrations of my published books (painting “HIRE ME!” upside down in the trees outside of Rapunzel’s tower and so on), I don’t know how I get chosen.

My work looks awfully different from book to book, but I imagine that an editor or art director who ends up contacting me is thinking of one look in particular, and they might mention that to me, though they may not end up getting it. Also, from my third book on, I have tended to keep working with people I’ve worked with before, so those publishers know more what they’re getting into. On my end, what happens is that I get a call or an email. 

Could you describe your involvement in the process, from the time you are contacted about a new project, through the creation of the illustrations, to the finished book?

I usually want to stick my nose into all stages of the creation and production processes, but as I try to do it in a nice way and, I hope, not out of a personal need for control but in the spirit of collaboration, I’ve rarely had trouble.

So it usually begins for me when I get a phone call or email from a publisher, either asking if I’m available or just sending a manuscript, and I can sometimes tell pretty quickly if I think it’s a good idea for me on or not. Sometimes I don’t know and I mull.

My first criterion (and I’m sorry if this seems pompous) is whether the story makes me think that our overcrowded world, with no shortage of books in it already, would be notably worse off without this new addition. (Which is sort of like saying how much do I like it, but not quite). Then I imagine what kind of art I’d like to see illustrating the manuscript and at that point I can usually tell whether I’d get excited by the prospect of trying to make that kind of art.

Then, if it’s a go, come all the stages you probably know about in the making of an illustrated book. If it’s a picture book, that means breaking the manuscript up into pieces that fit in a 32- or 40-page book (publisher tells me what’s possible)—not a simple job if you want to do it right.

At the same time, I try to imagine the best size and proportion for this book, long before having any idea of the content of its pictures. Then with text decided for each spread I’ll very, very crudely rough out an array of thumbnail sketches, trying to establish the dynamic of the storytelling through the pictures, the content and composition of each illustration.

After or during that time, I’ll be casting around for what the characters should look like, and I’ll be thinking about the style I want the drawings to display. This is intimately connected to the choice of medium, so I’m thinking about that, too, and probably doing a lot of testing on scratch paper.

If I get the thumbnail sketches working, I’ll go to a full-sized, or at least not-so-little dummy, in black pencil, with text placed on the pages.

The dummy can be very rough, too, and I am generally willing to risk showing it to the publisher even before, say, I have any idea of what the characters will look like.

I like feedback, and things like pacing can be judged without other important features yet in place. I might also put the pictures together with text in InDesign, at least as a preliminary version before the art director gets to work on it.

When the designer does join in, I’ll want to be part of her or his process, too. Then there is research, refining sketches, working out color, checking with editor and art director all along, and working and working and working on finished art.

How involved is the art director or author in determining the style of the artwork for a particular project?

The style of my artwork has to be determined by me, to the extent that I can control it. I think the author should have a role in choosing an illustrator, and if there’s a wish to have the book look a certain way, that could be part of the manuscript’s presentation to me at the outset. But in fact this rarely happens. I think publishers are interested in seeing what I come up with.

It has happened that after seeing what I come up with, they aren’t convinced. Then it becomes a conversation, or a discussion, or a debate, in which at the end everybody needs to be on the same side. And I can be convinced that I was wrong, at least if I was wrong.

Do you ever revise your illustrations based on feedback from the art director or for other reasons?

I make lots of changes based on suggestions. Art directors and editors I work with often have great ideas that I didn’t think of, or can point out features in my drawings that I then realize were not so great. I believe we are all devoted, at base, to creating the best possible book. So if I’m given a suggestion that I don’t feel good about, I will say why, and another conversation can begin.

I will try to convince the other parties that I have important and valid reasons for seeing things my way, or point out (if it’s the case) that their suggestions might have problems they may not be considering, and at the same time they’ll do the same to me.

In the end, with very few, minor exceptions, I don’t think any book I’ve worked on has left anybody feeling that the wrong path was taken.

What is the typical timeline, from receiving a commission, to submitting the completed artwork to the publisher?

I’ve rarely managed to finish illustrating a book in less than a year. That has been about the average, I think, but I’m usually not able to start work on a manuscript right when I receive it, so it’s hard to pin down the time it takes when I’ve got a couple of projects waiting to be begun for a couple of years, and I’m already thinking about all of them a little.

You have said in the past that you have created many of your picture book illustrations using oil paints. When that is the case, how is the final artwork submitted to the publisher?

Art that isn’t digital to begin with needs to be scanned, and it is still the case that publishers use scanners or cameras of a higher quality than almost any individual illustrator would have access to.

I’ve talked to some younger illustrators who scan their reflective art and deliver electronically, without even considering that they could or should deliver the actual art on paper. That is really the preferable way to go. Oil paints have the reputation of not drying, but my oils are usually dry within a day, or at least dry to the touch. There is an additive you can put in your painting medium to speed the drying, and if I’m running very late I will sometimes mix in a little more of this desiccant, or I will avoid painting with pigments I know are slow-drying and favor the faster ones, if possible.

Although I won’t scan my own oil paintings (my scanner picks up reflections on oil paint’s shiny surface for every little textury bump in the paper), I’m not above asking for the high resolution files that the publisher gets from their scanner, and sometimes even before first proofs, going in digitally to fix things I didn’t manage to do correctly in the art.

After a book is released, what kinds of promotional activities do you as the illustrator engage in to support its release?

The more the merrier, I say. I’m on Twitter (@paulozelinsky) and Instagram (paulozelinsky) anyway, and while I don’t like self-promotional posts, when a new book is coming out, there is plenty of interesting information to share. I go on Facebook, too, but only privately for my personal account. I would prefer that people I don’t know personally “Like” my Facebook author page.

Z Is For Moose fabric, suitable size for quilt
I’ve had some ideas for contests and a raffle for prints of the cover art of a book. Sometimes the publisher has given me great support and help. But I’ve also done a raffle or two on my own.

In general I do these things because they seem like cool things to do; I don’t know if they have in any way helped sales—in fact I doubt it. Also, I like to create a repeating design based on almost every new book, and have it printed on fabric (at spoonflower.com). People can purchase it on their own, by the yard (though they don’t), and I can have some of made into a shirt or a vest (which I do). Not so long ago I couldn’t decide on color choices in one of these patterns, so I conducted an online vote; that was fun.

An additional layer of attention has sometimes become available to me that would be harder for most illustrators to garner, in that a few of these larks I’ve gone on were interesting enough that Publishers Weekly has written about them, or the Horn Book. But only after a friend pushed me into asking these journals if they’d like to write about it.

I’ve made ties that go with my books, as well as shirts and a couple of vests, and I wear this special apparel (in moderation!) whenever there’s an appropriate event.

And yes, school visits are great. I love to do them with or without a new book. There is nothing better than to see groups of children appreciating the very things you spent so much time and effort on in the solitude of your studio, a year or more earlier.

When it comes to visiting schools I tend to be passive, waiting to be asked, but it’s not out of line to approach and let schools know you’re available if they’re interested. School visits not related to a book tour are a source of income; as part of a book tour, arranged by an independent bookseller, I’m happy to give one presentation to a school, but not the three or four I’d give if it were a paid arrangement.

Are there some new releases we should look out for?

Actually, no. It will be a long time before anything new comes out. After the recent Toys Meet Snow, it’s going to be quite a while until the next thing.

But one brand-new release that is partly mine is the 75th anniversary edition of Make Way for Ducklings. I was very honored and excited (you can imagine) to be asked to draw a pictorial map of Boston that would be included with the book and a CD recording in a boxed set. That edition is just out now, I think.

I had a wonderful time researching what Boston looked like in 1941 (if felt like detective work), and illustrating parts of the story in the appropriate parts of my map, which is really an aerial view as much as it is a map. My drawing didn’t reproduce every single building in and around Beacon Hill, and I had to squash some blocks down in size for the picture to fit the proportions of the paper, but it’s pretty faithful to reality, I’d say.

You’re going to be one of our dueling illustrators at the SCBWI booth at the 2016 Bologna Children’s Book Fair. How often have you visited BCBF?

Publishers always told me, when I asked about Bologna, that going there was not something I would want to do, or should. It was only for brusque, publisher-to-publisher deal-making and if I went I would be in the way.

I first came to Bologna anyway in 2006, because after planning a family trip to Venice, I decided to look up the Bologna fair and discovered that it started immediately after we were going to leave Venice, and Bologna was an easy train trip away. And then a friend told me that SCBWI was holding a full-scale pre-conference in Bologna on the weekend leading up to the fair. I was able to get a spot on a panel, and then when I asked publishers again, they told me I should go after all, and helped me find a hotel room (almost impossible just a month before the fair). And I enjoyed it tremendously!

So after that first wonderful time there, I’ve been going back almost every other year, and continuing to enjoy it tremendously. Where else can you see virtually every children’s book published in the world in the previous year? I see a lot of editors that I know, as well as the great SCBWI community, so it’s an occasion to hang out with friends, and I must say that eating is a large part of the pleasure.

I think the Bologna fair has been changing, and now you see a greater presence of book creators among the sub-rights sales force and the editors. Mostly these are just people coming on their own, but now very occasionally they are even being sent by their publishers.

SCBWI isn’t putting on Bologna pre-conferences any longer, but they have an active booth at Bolognafiere every other year. Of course my favorite activity is the dueling illustrators tradition, which is huge fun. And this year the booth is bigger than ever before.

How can visits to fairs such as BCBF benefit an illustrator’s career?

I haven’t used my trips to the fair in a practical or useful way from the point of view of career-helping. But I’ve seen illustrators come away with publishing deals: it can happen though I’m not positive how it’s done.

SCBWI itself can facilitate this, because you can arrange for a period of time when you sit in the booth and basically represent your books to passersby like all of the other publishers with booths there.

There’s also a wall at the fair for illustrators to put up their promotional cards, and publishers look through them (although there are so many cards by the end of the fair that it seems like an awfully long shot).

European publishers set up periods for open portfolio-viewing, and illustrators line up with their work in hand, to be seen by an art director in the flesh.

Do you have any advice for a first-time visitor to BCBF?

If you have published already, and are thinking of visiting Bologna, definitely ask for advice from your U,S, publisher. If you have ever had a book picked up by a foreign publisher, it would be a great thing to arrange to meet that publisher’s representatives in Bologna. This will make you more of a real person to that publisher rather than just a subsidiary right they purchased.

SCBWI offers various good opportunities to get your work seen, so definitely arrange your visit with SCBWI in mind. Even if you’re not trying to network or push your career forward, hanging out (and eating out!) with SCBWI folk is reason enough to make the visit a fun time. Many but by no means all of them are of US origin, but they live all around the world.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Bologna, apart from visiting the BCBF?

Did I mention eating? Well, other than that, Bologna has some fantastic museums. Besides the main art museum (the Pinatoteca) there is a fabulous Medieval museum.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is a museum devoted entirely to the generally under-appreciated painter Morandi, although I think it may be closed temporarily and its collection shifted to the Modern Art Museum. There is plenty more to do in Bologna, and don’t forget about the eating.

People say that Bolognese food is the best in Italy, and although that kind of claim is sort of meaningless, it is probably also true.

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me today. It was great to see you at the Book Fair. I really enjoyed watching your duel with Doug Cushman at the SCBWI booth during the fair!

Thank you! The pleasure is mine.

Cynsational Notes

Elisabeth Norton grew up in Alaska, lived for many years and Texas, and after a brief sojourn in England, now lives with her family between the Alps and the Jura in Switzerland.

She writes for middle grade readers and serves as the regional advisor for the Swiss chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

When not writing, she can be found walking the dogs, playing board games, and spending time with family and friends. Find her on Twitter @fictionforge.

The Bologna 2016 Interview series is coordinated by Angela Cerrito, SCBWI’s Assistant International Advisor and a Cynsational Reporter in Europe and beyond.

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6. Guest Post: Author-Illustrator Ambelin Kwaymullina on Ethics, Process & Own Voices

By Ambelin Kwaymullina
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

The first of a four-installment dialogue with Ambelin and Cynthia. 

Our focus is on the creative life and process, speculative fiction, diversity, privilege, indigenous literature, and books for young readers.

I am an Aboriginal author, illustrator and law academic who comes from the Palyku people of Australia.

And I am an Own Voices advocate, by which I mean, I promote the stories told by marginalised peoples about our own experiences rather than stories told by outsiders.

I’ve written before that I don’t believe the absence of diversity from kids lit to be a ‘diversity problem.' I believe it to be a privilege problem that is caused by structures, behaviours and attitudes that consistently privilege one set of voices over another.

Moreover, the same embedded patterns that (for example) consistently privilege White voices over those of Indigenous peoples and Peoples of Colour will also work to privilege outsider voices over insider ones, at least to some degree.

The insider voices, of those fully aware of the great complexities and contradictions of insider existence, will always be more difficult to read and less likely to conform to outsider expectations as to the lives and stories of ‘Others’.

Insider stories can therefore be read as less ‘true’ or trap an insider author in a familiar double-bind – if we write of some of the bleaker aspect of our existence we’re told we’re writing ‘issues’ books; if we don’t we’re accused of inauthenticity.

I would like to think that as an Indigenous woman, I have some insight into marginalisation not my own. I have always thought that any experience of injustice should always increase our empathy and push us towards a greater understanding of injustice in other contexts.

But that does not mean my experiences equate to that of other peoples.

In an Australian context, I have said that I do not believe non-Indigenous authors should be writing Indigenous characters from first person perspective or deep third, because I don’t think a privilege problem can be solved by writers of privilege speaking in the voices of the marginalised.

And I apply the same limitation to myself in relation to experiences and identities not my own.

Ibi Zoboi recently wrote powerfully to the perils of the desire to ‘help’, noting that White-Man’s-Burdenism is not limited to White people. I run writing workshops for peoples who come from many different backgrounds of marginalisation, and as a storyteller, it is tempting to enact that instinct to ‘help’ into a narrative, to highlight the struggles of workshop participants in one of my own stories.

But between the thought and the action must come the process by which I determine if I am really helping at all.

So I ask myself, is the story mine to tell? The answer is no, of course; their stories are their own and their pain is not my source material.

The only way in which I would write from someone else’s perspective is in equitable partnership with someone from that group (where copyright, royalties and credit are shared).

This would not necessarily mean we each wrote half a novel. The other person may not write a word; their contribution could be in opening a window onto insider existence and correcting the mistakes an outsider inevitably makes.

I’ve had people tell me that this is the job of a sensitivity reader. But I am cautious about the boundaries of that relationship because I think there are cases where the input of an insider advisor infuses the narrative to such a degree that they are really a co-author and should be treated as such.

I don’t think the question is who wrote what words, but whether the story could have been told at all but for the contribution of the insider.

Someone once told me that I was restricting myself as a storyteller. I don’t believe I am.

I am acknowledging boundaries, but boundaries do not necessarily limit or restrict. Boundaries can define a safe operating space, for myself and for others, and respect for individual and collective boundaries is part and parcel of acknowledging the inherent dignity of all human beings.

I have begun co-writing a speculative fiction YA novel that is told from the perspectives of two girls: one Chinese, and one Indigenous. I am writing the Indigenous girl, and Chinese-Australian author Rebecca Lim is writing the Chinese girl.

The original idea for the story was Rebecca’s, but already it is changing as we each negotiate our own identities and experiences.

This is not a story that is restricted by boundaries; it is one that would not exist without them. In the writing of it, Rebecca and I are creating something that is greater than the sum of both of us – and in such stories, I see the future.

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7. 2016 SCBWI Bologna Author-Illustrator Interview: Susan Eaddy

Photo by Peter Nash
By Patti Buff
for SCBWI Bologna 2016
and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Susan Eaddy works in her attic studio writing picture books and playing with clay. She was an art director for fifteen years, during which time she won international 3D illustration awards and a Grammy nomination. 

She lives in Nashville, Tenn.; and is the regional advisor for the Midsouth chapter of SCBWI and a co-organizer of the SCBWI Bologna Book Fair

Her illustrated books include Papa Fish’s Lullaby by Patricia Hubbell (Cooper Square, 2007) and My Love for You is the Sun by Julie Hedlund (Little Bahalia, 2014). Her latest picture book, Poppy’s Best Paper, was released by Charlesbridge in July 2015.

She loves to travel and has used the opportunity to do school visits anywhere in the world from Taiwan to Alabama to Hong Kong and Brazil.

Hi Susan! Thanks for participating in the 2016 SCBWI Bologna Book Fair interview series.

With much more focus on diversity in children's books than has been in the past, how important of a role do you think book fairs like Bologna play in introducing young readers to children from other countries and cultures?

I think that book fairs like Bologna offer hope and understanding for our future. It creates the opportunity to come together from all over the world and find common ground in stories.

Children can only benefit from books translated into their native language to both learn about new cultures or to find that other cultures are very much like their own. With this experience, they see that kids from all over have similar feelings and experiences.

Any tips for new visitors to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair?

First of all, the SCBWI booth is your hub, and home away from home. You’ll be surrounded by friends you’ve never met before. To maximize your opportunities:

  • Apply for a personal or regional showcase with Chris Cheng.
  • Schedule portfolio reviews.
  • Bring promo materials.
  • Read the program.
  • Attend the talks.
  • Network!

Getting Around: Being the worrier that I am…I like to figure out where I am going via Google Maps the day before I need to be somewhere.

Since wi-fi is not always available on the streets, I take a screen shot of the map I need when I am connected, and can then access it through my phone or iPad photos whether I am connected or not.

Get city and bus maps at Tourist Info in the Neptune Fountain Piazza. Buy bus tickets there or at the Tabachi (the little kiosk).

Budget Tips: Have breakfast bars with you at all times. There are food stands at the Fair, but they are pricey and packed, and often a breakfast bar will get you though the day. Then you can splurge a bit on the dinner meal.

Some lodging comes with a modest breakfast, but if you have the option of declining breakfast for a price break, do so. You can generally get a cappuccino for much less and chomp on your breakfast bar.

If you have an apartment, buy groceries and make lunches, even some dinners.

But do eat out when you can. This is Italy! Home of spectacular food. Share a room, a taxi, a bottle of wine.

Do keep all receipts, again, remember this is a business trip.

Those are some great tips. You really are a pro. You’ve done a lot of traveling over the years, China, Italy, and Brazil. As an illustrator, how does seeing different cultures influence you?

I love getting a peek at different cultures when I travel, and specifically I love visiting the schools. One of the things that strikes me most, is how universal kids reactions and questions are.

I have had the same questions from kids in Hong Kong as I've had in Brazil. ("How long does it take you? Why clay? How much money do you make?")

Kids' artwork and enthusiasm are so similar in every culture I have seen. And since so much of my presentations are visual, language does not impose a huge barrier.

In 2015, you officially stepped onto the writing side of picture books with the release of Poppy’s Best Paper. First off, congratulations! And secondly, what particular challenge surprised you when you took off your illustrator’s hat and switched it for an author’s hat?

Thank you! I have lots of memories and ideas from my childhood.

I began writing because most art directors told me that my clay artwork was a tough fit for other people's manuscripts and that I should come up with my own stories.

As I began to write, the stories that unfolded were more complex than suited my illustration style, and the irony is that my own manuscript of Poppy's Best Paper was not a good fit for the clay!

I tried to illustrate Poppy in clay many times, until finally my agent intervened with the suggestion of using another illustrator.

Brilliant! Rosalinde Bonnet's illustrations made all the difference in the world.


Sometimes a fresh perspective is exactly what the project needs. So glad that worked out. 

I’m just fascinated by your illustration method of first drawing an outline then filling it in with clay. Do you see the image with color before you begin or is that something that changes as the page progresses?

I start with a color palette that interests me, then I explore it further in the computer or with colored pencil, working on top of copies of my original sketch. Often colors are changed a bit in the clay stage, but I try to have the colors worked out before I mix them in clay.




I can imagine mistakes can be costly. After your artwork has been published in a book, how do you preserve it and are you allowed to sell it?
 
I save my artwork in pizza boxes and other flat boxes and have my studio knee wall space filled with them. The sad thing is that if I am using plasticine, it is not a permanent medium and they can never displayed in any way but on a tabletop under glass.

I do have some framed and saved that way, but I don't sell them. I also use some polymer clay which is more permanent, but I don't sell those either. Since the end product is ultimately a photograph of my clay, I do sell large prints of the work.



Pizza boxes. I love it! What question have you never been asked on an interview or school visit, but wish to be?

Hmmmm.... How old do you feel, or rather, what is your mental age?

I think ten years old is the age I identify with most. I still think like a ten year old. I'm forever trying to figure the world out and gain experiences by feeling my way through while keeping that sense of wonder. I rarely feel like an expert, but in a way that feeds the creativity.

That's actually why I enjoy clay so much, because I don't know how to do it! Every illustration becomes a discovery process. With lots of skills, ten year olds are still trying to do things in their own way with exuberance and angst, and most are not yet jaded.

Ten is my favorite age, too. And finally, what are you working on now? Any surprises you can share with us?

I am thrilled to say that my editor and I are working on a new Poppy book! In this second book, Poppy faces sibling rivalry with not one but two adorable additions to the family.

We'll see if Poppy can learn to share the limelight!

Congratulations! Can’t wait to find out. Thank you so much for stopping by, Susan. I wish you a lovely time at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

Cynsational Notes

Patti Buff
The tenth out of eleven children in a family that took in hundreds of foster kids, Patti Buff found solitude in reading at a young age and hasn’t stopped. She later turned to writing because none of her other siblings had and she needed to stand out in the crowd somehow.

Originally from Minnesota, Patti now lives in Germany with her husband and two teenagers where she’s also the regional advisor of SCBWI Germany & Austria. She is currently putting the finishing touches on her YA novel Requiem, featured in the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices 2016 anthology.

The Bologna 2016 Interview series is coordinated by Angela Cerrito, SCBWI’s Assistant International Advisor and a Cynsational Reporter in Europe and beyond.

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8. SCBWI Bologna 2016 Author-Illustrator Interview: Doug Cushman

Doug Cushman
By Elisabeth Norton
for SCBWI Bologna 2016
and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Since 1978, Doug Cushman has illustrated over 130 children's books, 30 or so of which he wrote as well. 

Among his many honors, he has gained a place on the New York Times Children’s Best Sellers list and on the 2003 Children’s Literature Choice list.

The first book of his popular beginning reader series featuring Aunt Eater (HarperCollins, 1987) was a Reading Rainbow Book. 

He has received a National Cartoonist’s Society Reuben Award for Book Illustration, the 2004 Christopher Award for his book illustrations, a 2007 and 2010 Maryland Blue Crab Award and the 2009 California Young Readers Medal.

He illustrated the best-selling “Can’t Do” series, including What Dads Can’t Do (2000) and What Moms Can’t Do (2001) for Simon and Schuster. 


His recent titles include Pumpkin Time! by Erzsi Deak (Sourcebooks, 2014), Halloween Good Night (Square Fish, 2015) and Christmas Eve Good Night (Henry Holt, 2011), which received a starred review from Kirkus. His first book of original poems, Pigmares (Charlesbridge, 2012), was published in 2012. 

He has displayed his original art in France, Romania and the USA, including the prestigious Original Art, the annual children’s book art show at the Society of Illustrators in New York City. 

He is fan of mystery novels and plays slide guitar horribly. He enjoys cooking, traveling, eating and absorbing French culture and good wine—even designing wine labels for a Burgundy wine maker—in his new home in St. Malo on the Brittany coast in France.

Welcome Doug! Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions about illustration and the SCBWI Bologna Illustration Gallery (BIG) at the Bologna Children's Book Fair.

You have had a long career in the children's publishing industry, illustrating both your own stories, as well as the stories of other writers. Do you have a favorite medium for illustrating children's books?

I love watercolor with pen and ink. There is so much expression one can have using ink line with the occasional “happy accidents” in watercolor. Pretty much all my books have been rendered in those two mediums.

It was more controlled in the beginning, but I’m trying to loosen up now. For a couple books I did everything: writing, watercolor illustration and hand-lettering the display type and entire text including the copyright. I even simulated aged, yellowing, lined notepad paper with watercolor, hand drawing each blue line on every page of the book.

My philosophy is: do whatever it takes to make the book work.

Has that changed over the years?

Moving to Paris loosened me up a bit. A few years ago, I rendered three books in acrylic, something I’d wanted to do. I love the bright colors and thick brushstrokes. I even added some collaged elements as well.

But, for me, the medium I use depends on the story. The technique I use to illustrate a book must complement the heart and soul of the story. An illustrator should never force his style on a text.

I’ve discovered digital painting recently. There’s a lot one can do with it. I’m having a grand time playing with my Wacom tablet, but I believe my training as a traditional artist has held me in good stead. Knowing the craft of drawing and painting has always helped me out with a multitude of problems! Yet, the story always dictates how I approach the way I draw my pictures.

So it varies from project to project. What influences your choice of style and medium for a given project?

Rackham
Shepard
The story is always the first thing that defines my approach to a project, even when I’m the author. An illustrator must read what’s between the lines as well as what’s on the page. The author is telling a certain story, the illustrations must work in harmony with the text.

A good example is The Wind In the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908). The master draftsman Arthur Rackham illustrated one (1940) edition.

He's a brilliant illustrator, one of my favorites. But his style was so wrong for the atmospheric and slightly goofy story (Toad driving a car!). He was perfect for Grimm but not for the animal denizens living along side an easy, flowing river. E.H. Shepard’s illustrations are spot on.

What qualities do you think are important for an artist to have in order to be successful as children's book illustrator?

Patience! Flexibility and a thick skin are paramount as well. This is a tough business. So many books are being published every year. But there’s always room for someone with a different voice, a unique way to look at the world.

Be aware of the trends but never be a slave to them. Follow what interests you. It may take longer but in the long run your work will be more sincere and that will catch the attention of editors and art directors. Honesty always shines through.

As writers, we talk a lot about voice, both the voice of the character, as well as our own authorial voice. Do illustrators have a voice as well? What about individual projects, or even characters?

Absolutely, illustrators have a voice. Like writers, it’s the way we see life.

In my case, I see the silliness, the zaniness in the world and through my characters, both human and animal. I’ve been told that one of the qualities people like about my work is the expression on my characters.

That’s part of my voice, my way of interpreting a text and the world in general, that internal struggle, waiting to get out. It’s like being an actor; artists must get inside the skin of the characters they’re illustrating, feeling what they feel. But, as I said earlier, the voice of the illustrator shouldn’t interfere with the voice of the author. They need to play off of each other, work in tandem together.

As a judge for the BIG, what makes an illustration stand out to you?

The BIG is a show of illustration, not just an exhibition of pretty pictures. I’m looking for art that is not only drawn and painted well, wonderfully composed and executed, but also tells a story.

I confess that much of what I see in the grand Bologna Book Fair judged art shows are marvelous paintings but they don’t tell any stories. We’re talking about book illustration here, art that serves a purpose. In many ways it’s harder and a much higher calling than easel painting.

I want to see something that dives deep into a story and tells me something in a way I haven’t seen or thought of before.

Why do you think participation in illustration showcases such as BIG is important for illustrators?

Exposure is one factor. Getting noticed. Working for a specific purpose is important as well. I’ve submitted illustrations to many judged shows with very specific criteria; size restrictions, medium, subject matter, etc. I haven’t always been accepted, but in the process of working on these pieces, I’ve learned something and expanded my working methods.

In almost every, case these pieces have always been the most popular and the most “Wow!” paintings in my portfolio. Picasso said a studio should be a laboratory.

I think shows like BIG can be a way to experiment with new ideas and techniques. Who knows? You may stumble across a way of working that may change your artistic career.

You have been to the Bologna fair on several occasions. How has your experience of the fair changed over the years?

I’m not sure that my experience has changed that much. But that’s not to say I’m bored!

It’s always exciting to see what’s being published around the world. I expect to see new things and I’m rarely disappointed. Of course digital publishing has grown since I started going to the book fair so it’s much more influential.

Through the years I’ve met more editors, art directors and illustrators so I know more people and it’s always fun to renew old friendships. And, of course there are the restaurants that I go to on a regular basis.

Over the years I’ve become friends with one of the owners. Now, that's really exciting!

What are your "must-do's" when you are there?

It can be overwhelming for a first timer. My suggestion is to wander around and “absorb” what you see, not seeking out anything specific. Take notes, jot down what strikes you.

If you open yourself to everything, you’re guaranteed to see something you would have missed if you were focused on a certain goal. I love wandering the “foreign” stands (foreign to this American, at least). There is so much creativity happening all over the world. I confess, working mainly in the American market, it’s easy to become too provincial in my thinking.

Any first time fair attendee should see as many books in as many stands that are not her market. It’s a real inspiration.

Also, as a “must-do”, I try to make a trip to Florence, only 40 minutes away by train. It’s every artist’s heritage, birthplace of who we are. It’s a lovely town chockablock with history and art (with some nice markets and restaurants!) It’s well worth a day off from the fair or staying the extra day.

Celebrating the 25th Anniversary!
Will you be in Bologna in April?

Definitely plan to go. I missed it last year and feel the need to return.

Will you be participating in the ever-popular Dueling Illustrators event at the SCBWI booth?

Yes and it’s always great fun. In past years I was teamed up with Paul O. Zelinsky, which is always a great thrill, and honor.

Thank you Doug! I look forward to seeing you in Bologna in April.

Cynsational Notes

Elisabeth Norton grew up in Alaska, lived for many years and Texas, and after a brief sojourn in England, now lives with her family between the Alps and the Jura in Switzerland.

She writes for middle grade readers and serves as the Regional Advisor for the Swiss chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

When not writing, she can be found walking the dogs, playing board games, and spending time with family and friends. Twitter: @fictionforge

The Bologna 2016 Interview series is coordinated by Angela Cerrito, SCBWI’s Assistant International Advisor and a Cynsational Reporter in Europe and beyond.

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9. 2016 SCBWI Bologna Author-Illustrator Interview: Naomi Kojima

By Elisabeth Norton
for SCBWI Bologna 2016
and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Naomi Kojima is an author and illustrator of children’s books. Born in Japan, Naomi has divided her life between Japan and the United States. Her first two picture books, Mr. and Mrs. Thief and The Flying Grandmother were published in New York. 

Since then, her books have been published in Japan, France, Sweden and Indonesia. 

Living and working in Tokyo, she is that author and illustrator of picture books The Alphabet Picture Book and The Singing Clams. She has been a keynote and presenter at major Asian conferences including the Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore and has given illustration and picture book workshops in India and Indonesia.

Naomi serves as the illustrator coordinator of SCBWI Japan.

Welcome Naomi! Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about your career as an illustrator, and about serving as a judge for the SCBWI Bologna Illustration Gallery (BIG).

Can you tell us about how you entered the field of illustrating children's books?

illustration from The Alphabet Picture Book
When I was a child, I wanted to become a writer of children’s books and illustrate my stories. I went to the school library almost every day, and read and talked to the kind librarian until it was time to go home. I would look at the bookshelves and dream that someday, my books would be on these shelves, and a child like me would take them off the shelf, read it and enjoy it.

I made my first picture book for a class assignment during my senior year at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn. The story was based on my friend’s next door neighbor. We were sure they were thieves!

I wrote the story, drew illustrations, stapled the pages, and called the picture book Mr. and Mrs. Thief. Making the picture book brought back my childhood dream.

I knew in my heart that I wanted to keep on writing and illustrating picture books. But I had no idea how to start on the path as a writer and illustrator of children’s books. I went back to Japan after graduation, and worked as an art teacher.

Some years later, my husband and I moved to the U.S., to a college town in Massachusetts, and I met Jane Yolen. It was Jane who helped me start my career in children’s books. I went to the monthly meetings Jane organized in a small library in Hatfield. The group was called the Society of Children’s Book Writers, now the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators.


By attending the meetings, I learned how to make picture books. I worked on Mr. and Mrs. Thief, and received critique at the monthly meetings. After several revisions, Jane told me that Mr. and Mrs. Thief was ready. I made five appointments with publishers in New York City, and the editor at the second publisher showed strong interest in Mr. and Mrs. Thief and another picture book dummy The Flying Grandmother. Three weeks later, she called and gave me a contract for both books.

It was Jane and SCBWI that helped me make my childhood dream come true. And do you know what? The library at my elementary school in Tokyo has a special shelf for my books!

How did you discover your illustration style?

My illustration style is influenced by the illustrations from the books I used to enjoy as a child. One book I liked was a collection of New Yorker cartoons. It was my parent’s book, and I couldn’t understand the captions and I didn’t get the jokes, but I thought the black and white illustrations were so clever. I was amazed how much could be expressed in just black and white.

illustration from The Sparrow's Gift
Another book I loved to look through, turning from page to page, was the Fireside Book of Folk Songs, which is a 300-page songbook. I didn’t know the songs, but I would look at the illustrations and try to imagine what the ballads were about.

Many years later, I realized the illustrations were by Alice and Martin Provensen. That was a wonderful surprise!

During my school years in Japan, I was fascinated with the illustrations by E. H. Shepard in Winnie-the-Pooh; with Walter Trier, who illustrated many of Erich Kaster’s books; with Edward Ardizzone in The Little Bookroom; and Pauline Baynes, who illustrated the Narnia books.

Naturally, I chose pen and ink and water colors for my illustrations.

Do you have a favorite artistic medium for your illustrations?

I like to work in pen and ink and water colors. I like the clear and black lines of pen and ink, and a light layer of water colors over the lines. I also use colored pencils. I like to combine soft and hard colored pencils.

I like to work in pencil too. The illustrations for Singing Shijimi Clams are done in pencil. I used a mechanical pencil to get a very fine and sharp line.

Has that changed over the course of your career?

No, it hasn’t changed much. I experiment with markers and crayon, but I go back to pen and ink, pencil, water colors and colored pencils.

Do you illustrate your own stories, the stories of other writers, or both?

I illustrate my own picture book stories. I don’t think I would illustrate someone else’s picture book, but from time to time, I like illustrating long stories by other writers. As a child, I always looked forward to finding the illustrations in long stories. I think the combination of illustrations and words are beautiful, in picture books and in longer stories.

I have illustrated four stories by Japanese fantasy writer Sachiko Kashiwaba. The most recent book we worked on together is Princess Tapir’s Classmate. Her stories usually have mythical beasts and animals, which is a challenge, but also fun to illustrate.

What are the differences and/or similarities in the creative process when illustrating your own or other people's stories?

The biggest difference is, if you are writing and illustrating your own story, you are responsible for everything: the content, the plot, the structure, the quality of writing and art.

When you illustrate other people’s stories, your mission is to interpret the story, and make illustrations that represent and enhance the story.

The similarity is that you give your best to make a beautiful book.

As a judge for the SCBWI Bologna Illustration Gallery, what makes an illustration stand out to you?

Good illustrations have the power to draw you in instantly, and make you want to keep looking. The more you look, the more you see. It seems there are layers of things to look at.

It could be the movement of fine lines, the confident brush strokes, the subtle and rich colors, the careful details, the striking composition, the humor, the playfulness, the expression of the face or body that evokes a feeling, and reminds you of a place or time.

There are illustrations that are successful in catching your eye by using strong colors and composition, but when you look closely, you notice it is a dead end, that you cannot see or feel the artist, and you cannot go any deeper than the surface. Depth is an important quality in good illustrations.

The successful illustrator seems to know when to stop and when to add. This sense of balance, I believe, comes from training and experience, from many hours of drawing.

What are the benefits for illustrators from submitting their work to showcases such as BIG?

The biggest benefit for submitting to BIG is the opportunity of having your work displayed at the SCBWI Showcase at the 2016 Bologna Book Fair, where people in the children’s book business from around the world will come to browse.

Another benefit is the digital version of the shortlist portfolio, where thumbnails of artwork and contact information will be on display on the SCBWI website. SCBWI continues to display portfolios from 2010. This is wonderful, as it gives illustrators from around the world an opportunity to show their work on a long-term basis. Many editors come to the SCBWI website to find illustrators.

As you can see from this shortlist, the quality of the illustrations were very high. The judging process required a lot of concentration and energy, but I enjoyed every moment of looking at the submissions.

I know it takes a bit of courage to submit work to illustration contests, but when you submit, you are taking a step forward and making a commitment to your career as an illustrator.

What qualities do you think are important for an artist to have in order to be successful in the field of illustration for children's books?

Good drawing skills, a love for children’s books, determination, perseverance, patience, objectivity and believing in yourself. And if you want to be a picture book illustrator, read many, many picture books.

What is the one thing you wish someone had told you at the beginning of your career as an illustrator?

That life is much too short to make all the story ideas I have into picture books!

illustration from Singing Shijimi Clams

Thank you Naomi for your time! It’s been a pleasure talking to you.

Cynsational Notes

Elisabeth Norton grew up in Alaska, lived for many years and Texas, and after a brief sojourn in England, now lives with her family between the Alps and the Jura in Switzerland.

She writes for middle grade readers and serves as the regional advisor for the Swiss chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

When not writing, she can be found walking the dogs, playing board games, and spending time with family and friends. Find her on Twitter @fictionforge.

The Bologna 2016 Interview series is coordinated by Angela Cerrito, SCBWI’s Assistant International Advisor and a Cynsational Reporter in Europe and beyond.

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10. 2016 SCBWI Bologna Author-Illustrator Interview: Lauren Mills

By Angela Cerrito
for SCBWI Bologna 2016
and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Lauren Mills spent her youth in the woods trying to tame wild animals and has been illustrating since she could hold a crayon. She always knew she wanted to write and illustrate children’s books and was the first in the California State System to receive an MA in Illustration.

Her picture book, The Rag Coat (Little, Brown, 1991), won numerous awards including the Charlotte Award, and her original fairy tale, Fairy Wings, co-illustrated with her husband, Dennis Nolan (Little, Brown, 1995), won SCBWI’s Golden Kite for best picture book.

Mills is also a sculptor and painter, but returned to children’s books, especially after reading that her Tatterhood and the Hobgoblins (Little, Brown, 1993) had helped young girls.

Her first novel, Minna’s Patchwork Coat (Little, Brown, 2015) is a Social Studies Notable Trade Book and a Children’s Book Council Hot of the Press pick.

Congratulations on your illustration Minna’s Patchwork Quilt being selected as a finalist in the Bologna Illustrators’ Gallery. The illustration is the cover to your latest work. The novel Minna’s Patchwork Quilt is based on the much-loved picture book (The Rag Coat). What was it like to expand the characters of Minna and her family into a novel? Were there any specific challenges?

It was very gratifying and rewarding to expand Minna’s story into a chapter book. When I originally sent in the first five chapters I had only intended the book to be a small chapter book of about sixty pages. When my editors, Deirdre Jones and Andrea Spooner responded they asked for the synopsis for the rest of the novel.

 Since I didn’t have one, and I write very stream-of-conscious, letting the characters move the story along, I wrote the rest of the short chapter book in the following two weeks so I could give them a synopsis. They then wanted it longer and with more tension and character development of Minna. So, that’s when I focused more on the new characters of Lester and Aunt Nora, his grandmother, the Cherokee midwife, and changed the ending a little bit.

In The Rag Coat, Minna remembers her Papa’s words about “People only need people”, jumps off the log and heads back to school. In the novel, she says, “People only need nice people” and she resolves never to go back to school until her conversation with Lester makes her think about her own power.

Picture books are like poems or songs where every word counts and you must tell a whole story in very few words. I was daunted by the idea of writing a novel, but in some ways it’s easier to let your characters have interesting conversations without trying to cut them short.

What is difficult is tying it all together and remembering what was already said and done and keeping the reader interested from one chapter to the next.

Your sculptures have received national acclaim in the U.S. and have been recognized in Italy. How do the two art forms, sculpting and painting complement each other?

I noticed my drawing skills improving after I began sculpting and studying anatomy.

When I teach drawing, I always use sculpting to help with: perspective, anatomy and character design. Drawing and painting are a like a magician’s trick - how to show something three dimensional on a two dimensional surface.

Sculpting is the real thing. It just has to look right at all angles.

When one draws one must think about what is on the other side and how it connects to what they see from their perspective.

In addition to creating your own work, you also teach drawing as a faculty for Hollins University's MFA in Children's Book Writing & Illustrating. What advice do you offer to students who are starting out in the field of children’s illustration?

Three favorite quotes I give to students are: “Follow your bliss” by Joseph Campbell and “Do what you love, love what you do”, anonymous. And the third I think is John Burton - “It is the love of the process that pulls one through the discipline necessary to master the demands of that craft.”

I tell students that if you love doing art then make it your priority. Fit it into your day the best you can, and don’t worry how you make your living, as long as you can spend some of your day doing what you love. Somebody, somewhere will also love it and you will have made the world a better place by pleasing yourself and that other someone.

While I am a task master and believe in passing on the traditional academic teachings from the old masters. I believe that if one doesn’t love what they are doing that will show. And your love of the process, which for me is meditational, will show in your work and people will respond to that.

The only problem is that much of today’s American art education, art and book markets do not support or value craftsmanship or tradition or anything that takes a lot of care and time. “Quiet” and “precious” are seen as negative terms that don’t sell books.

Evie with a bust of her, created by her mother (Lauren)
Sometimes I wonder if I was born in the wrong century or the wrong country or both, but I have hope that my work will reach and inspire the next generation and/or the pendulum will swing back.

All the classical ateliers now are indicative of that, but we need more stories. That’s where illustration comes in. My definition of the difference between fine art and illustration is that there shouldn’t be any difference if they both are at their best.

Since this recognition of the cover for Minna’s Patchwork Coat, I have had an American agent in France ask to represent me. I’m now happy to have Erszi Deak of Hen and Ink Literary Studio as my agent and hope to expand to the European market.

The Rag Coat was adapted into a ballet. What was it like seeing your characters on stage, living, breathing and dancing?

It was thrilling to see the book translated into song and dance! It was almost an opera as well.

When someone approached me about making it a movie that’s when I thought about expanding the book into a novel myself and adding my favorite folk songs that would have been sung in 1908.

How do you juggle everything – painting, illustrating, sculpting, teaching and exhibiting your work?

I’m scattered. I work from project to project and sometimes do have too many things going on at once and our place gets very messy at times. I wasn’t writing or illustrating when I was painting and sculpting. Now, I hardly sculpt, unless it’s to make a doll out of clay I can fire in the oven.



Sometimes I get together with doll artist, Anna Brahms, and illustrators, Jane Dyer and her daughter, Brooke, and Kathy Brown to sculpt dolls. I adore sculpting but the cost of working from a model, making a mold and casting it into bronze is extremely expensive and difficult to sell these days.

Someday I would like to combine the sculpting, painting, and writing into art pieces... or perhaps a puppet show!

When I am teaching it is hard to get too much other work done, but teaching helps my art, too, and I believe in passing on what you’ve learned. Sometimes, we go on three day writing retreats with our writing group. Noticing how much we accomplished by not having any other interruptions, we’ve sometimes scheduled “at-home retreats” and just let people know we can’t be disturbed for a couple of days.

What is a typical work day like for you?

Lauren's studio
It always changes, but lately I get up at 5:30 a.m. or 6 a.m. and Dennis and I do 20 minutes of yoga stretches and exercises then go down to the first floor where there’s a gym.

(We used to live in a converted barn on 15 acres with our daughter and two whippets, but the dogs are gone, sadly, and our daughter is grown so we’re now in a converted factory building filled with lots of other artists who live on the fourth floor, and the other floors are studios and businesses such as the gym, a restaurant, hair salon, printer, photographer, yoga studio, and Figure Drawing studio... all of which we frequent!)

After working out at the gym, I make a smoothie, rinse off and get dressed into vintage, hand-made, natural clothing... mostly made by Magnolia Pearl - (I believe in creating the world you want to live in. Wearing art that harkens to another time and has a story book feel with handmade old lace or homespun linen brings me joy and brings beauty to the world I inhabit.)

At 7:30 a.m., I arrive at my elderly parents’ house, five minutes away, and make their smoothies and breakfast, take out the dog, and do whatever chores or errands they need.

At 9:30 a.m. or so I come back home and begin my work day. A lot of times it is taken up with business, so that’s why we need to schedule “creative retreats” where that’s all we do.

At 4 p.m. I may or may not go back to my parents to help them with dinner, etc...

View of Mt. Tom from Lauren's studio window
Sometimes we go to Figure Drawing at night or we continue working or we read or see a movie.

(We haven’t owned a TV for 30 years, but we do watch movies and series, such as the "Downton Abbey" or "Outlander" series or Jane Austen movies.)

Sundays we have our writing group here... either we all write for the day and critique or they just come over at 3 p.m. and we critique then go downstairs for dinner.

We belong to WMIG (Western Massachusetts Illustrators Guild) and once a month there is an illustrators meeting at someone’s home.

What are you working on now?

Lauren, Kathy & apple-head puppets at a Carle Museum workshop
I have just sent off sketches and manuscripts for three picture books about a little girl and her dog. My agent, Erzsi Deak, also has many of my picture books and novels that I’ve just sent her.

I have several novels in various stages, but the front runner is a novel version of Tatterhood (loosely based on the folk tale). My picture book, Tatterhood and the Hobgoblins came out about 20 years ago and is part of the reason I returned to children’s books.

I have read online that my book helped little girls who had felt different feel like they were special. Now that is the reason to keep writing and to publish books!

Is there any wisdom you’d like to share to other’s who write and illustrate children’s books. Especially those who are just starting out?

My advice to anyone in the book field: There are children out there who need to have books that can help them navigate this world. Do whatever it takes to create a better life for children.

Cynsational Notes

Angela Cerrito is a pediatric physical therapist by day and a writer by night. She thinks she has the two best jobs in the world.

Her latest novel, The Safest Lie (Holiday House), was named a finalist for the 2015 Jewish Book Award, a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Older Readers and a Notable Social Studies Book for Young People.

Angela Coordinates the SCBWI Bologna Interview series, volunteers as SCBWI’s Assistant International Advisor and is a Cynsational reporter in Europe and beyond.

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11. 2016 SCBWI Bologna Author-Illustrator Interview: Nicola L. Robinson

By Elisabeth Norton
for SCBWI Bologna 2016
and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Nicola L Robinson is an illustrator based in Nottingham U.K. Her children's illustration work includes cover art, pop-up books, pen and ink illustrations, hand lettering, illustrations for children's poetry and illustrations for prints and greeting cards. She particularly loves drawing monsters, dragons, animals and architecture, often with a slightly creepy edge.

She is the author and illustrator of The Monster Machine, a monster picture book published by Pavilion Children's books. The Monster Machine was shortlisted for the Cambridge Children's book awards 2013 and selected as part of the Summer Reading Challenge by The Reading Agency.

Nicola won the Silver award in the self-promotional category at Images 36. Last year, she exhibited in London in the HAI Illustration 100 exhibition and also in multiple locations as part of the SCBWI BI showcase exhibitions. Nicola also owns and runs Teeth and Claws, her personal brand of prints and cards featuring her illustrations, predominantly dragons, dinosaurs and cats as well as other beasts too. Follow her blog and via Twitter @NLRobinsonart.

Congratulations on being awarded Honorable Mention in SCBWI’s Bologna Illustration Gallery for your illustration of The Billy Goats Gruff. I still have my copy of the Three Billy Goats Gruff book from my childhood, and I love your take on this classic tale! Was this piece part of a larger project such as a picture book, or was it a stand-alone piece?

Thank you very much! I'm pleased you like my version. The Three Billy Goat's Gruff has always been a favourite story of mine since being a small child.

I'm particularly drawn to fairy tales featuring animals and monsters so had been meaning to illustrate this for a while. It is a standalone illustration, done purely for myself- I wanted to capture an overview of the whole story with it, with a focus on the troll.

How long have you been an illustrator? What path led you to pursuing a career in illustration?

I've been drawing and creating all my life, so a career in art was a natural progression for me. I have always loved drawing particularly from my imagination.

I did art at school and went on to University where I did my degree in Fine Art, specialising in Painting. It was during my Fine Art studies that I found I really love making art with a narrative, something which tells a story be it from text or on its own and I realised Illustration was where my passion lay. I started freelancing and taking commissions when I was still a student.

I graduated in 2005 from Cardiff School of Art and Design and have been illustrating ever since. Although it is only in more recent years that I have been illustrating for children's publishing.

You are also an author. Is there a creative difference for you as an illustrator, when you are illustrating your own work, versus illustrating someone else’s work?

I had a lot of fun writing and illustrating my picture book. I found being both author and illustrator and so able to work on both text and image simultaneously was really useful- particularly when designing the layout of image and fitting the text on the spread. Being both author and illustrator gave me a lot of control over the finished look. Although as ever deciding which story elements to be shown in the artwork and what to tell in the text was a bit of a balancing act.

When illustrating other people's work I've usually have less control as there are more people's inputs to be considered. Most of my other commissioned children's book work has been for cover art and classic books which have a different set of requirements to work within than the larger canvas of a picture book. I usually work with art directors who are commissioning something very specific. I do enjoy illustrating other people's work though, and I try to bring something new to any text or cover I work on.

Do you have a favorite medium for your illustrations?

I love working in pen and ink, particularly old dip pens and nibs as well as finicky technical pens too. I love the lines which come out of them. I also love watercolours, coloured inks acrylic paint and digital techniques too. I have used a lot of different materials over the years depending on the project and subject to depict.

Is this the medium you used when creating your piece that was selected for the Bologna Illustration Gallery?

Yes. It is a combination of pen and ink drawing, watercolour, coloured ink, acrylic paint and a touch of digital fine tuning too.

Could you describe your creative process?

This varies depending on the particular demands of each project and how the end product is going to be printed, or presented. Although I always start every project with some kind of thumbnail scribbles to get a feel for the overall composition. I do a lot of research if the subject is not familiar, and often visit the library in order to read up on the topic and get a strong mental image of the subjects to be illustrated.

I then do lots of drawings, and rough sketches often going over the same ones tweaking the composition and making edits as necessary. When I'm happy with the rough sketch (or if I'm working with a client once they are happy) I'll transfer my sketch to paper to start inking and if I'm going to be working in colour I'll stretch the paper beforehand too so it dries nice and flat.

Once painted in a combination of watercolour and coloured inks I scan the artwork before moving to Photoshop for any final editing and to prepare the artwork for delivery. I often work in layers to allow for maximum flexibility, so elements can be repositioned or used elsewhere in a project. This is particularly useful for popup books and covers requiring movable elements of text or other details or vignette illustrations requiring totally clean transparent backgrounds for clean printing.

Not everything goes through this process, sometimes it is nice to just work in a sketchbook and let the ideas simmer in there for a while until they are ready to be developed. Sometimes that is where they stay.

Can you tell us about your work space?

My work space is a bedroom at the front of my house, I've only recently moved in so it is still a work in progress! It is the place that I work, and drink copious amounts of tea, and also the place where I think and read too. I also use the room for sewing and other crafty things as well as packing orders for my Teeth and Claws shop.

Moving house took ages and as a result I did not having a fully functioning work space for some time last year, working out of boxes and not knowing quite when moving was going to happen was disruptive to my work, so I am very appreciative of my new workspace now I'm here. I love it, but I will be stripping that wallpaper...

Sometimes it is nice to have a change of scenery, so I do work outside weather permitting, and I've always enjoyed working on the floor (less prone to tea/coffee spillages here too) sitting cross legged with my wooden drawing board on my lap.

What is a typical creative session like for you?

If it isn't part of a project for a client which obviously requires a solid block of work I tend to create when inspiration strikes. So my creative sessions can vary from waking up in the middle of the night with an idea from something I've been dreaming and trying to scrawl it down on paper, to whole evenings and weekends in my studio just content in my own universe.

I do stop for regular tea breaks though although I have been known to forget to make lunch if I'm particularly absorbed in my work. I hate distractions so I work best alone with no phone calls or emails to interrupt!

I like to listen to music while I work, it often helps get a rhythm going particularly when inking something with a lot of texture or detail like a city with lots of roof tiles and tiny windows or a big scaly dragon.

Thank you so much for spending time with us today! I look forward to seeing more of your illustrations in the future.

Cynsational Notes

Elisabeth Norton grew up in Alaska, lived for many years and Texas, and after a brief sojourn in England, now lives with her family between the Alps and the Jura in Switzerland.

She writes for middle grade readers and serves as the regional advisor for the Swiss chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

When not writing, she can be found walking the dogs, playing board games, and spending time with family and friends. Find her on Twitter @fictionforge.

The Bologna 2016 Interview series is coordinated by Angela Cerrito, SCBWI’s Assistant International Advisor and a Cynsational Reporter in Europe and beyond.

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12. Author-Illustrator Interview: Il Sung Na on The Opposite Zoo

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Congratulations on the release of The Opposite Zoo (Alfred A. Knopf, 2016). What was the initial spark for this picture book?

Thank you! I am so excited about this book.

Even though the concept of opposites has been on my wish list for a long time, I did not know where to begin. I started writing down my favorite things to draw, which are animals. Then I thought about a place where we can see many animals at once. So I ended up with a zoo.

Why monkey as a framing character?

He is a tricky character indeed. I thought, a monkey is like a child. They act and behave like children sometimes. Well, I could say both monkeys and children are unpredictable and have curious eyes in a way.

In this book, we needed a character who is not trouble-maker, but someone who can have an explorer-mind.

Idea Sketches
What was the timeline between spark and publication and what were the major events along the way?

I normally spend months picking an idea, developing it into a story and drawing. But this one did not take that long! From the idea until I pitched it to my editor, it took three weeks.

I struggled the first week to get it right, but once I figured it out, everything came at once. This was really a unique experience that I never had before since I started my career. Of course there were many things to be discussed and revised, like adding the monkey character to lead the whole story.

Although it took more than a year until the book actually published, I really enjoyed the whole process and I felt everything went so quickly.

In a process, polishing the "opposite" idea
First thumbnail sketches for the dummy
First thumbnail sketches for the dummy
First revised sketch
Second revised sketch
What were the challenges (personal, research, logistical, emotional) in bringing the book to life?

During my research, I realized that there were so many “opposite” books already out there, and it was my challenge to make a new “opposite” story. I also always have a hard time making good endings for most of my ideas. That’s why I still have many ideas in my folder, which I think are interesting concepts, but I have not been able to solve how to end those stories.

But this one was different. When I figured how to start and end the story, that was the moment that my brain clicked. The middle parts followed naturally. I carefully selected opposite words.

The book is for younger readers, thus the vocabulary needed to be simple. And I skipped my regular process of revising the story, revising thumbnail sketches several times, shifting the whole layout back and forth. I jumped straight into color illustrations once the idea was polished.

What artistic approach and risks did you embrace?

I wanted to illustrate this book in a different way, not in the same way I have done so far. The risk I had was how to approach this story in a fresh manner. I tried mono-print, watercolor, ink and color pencils. I spent the first week developing the idea and story, and I spent second week making color samples. I wanted more free-form lines and shapes in contrast to my previous illustrations.

So using ink-my long time favorite materials-was a risk: the effects had the potential to go astray with this new method.
Color Sample - Mono Print
Color Sample - Ink and Color Pencils
Final Illustration
What advice to do you have for children's book creators working on concept books specifically?

Don’t worry about writing skills, if you think you don’t have them. It’s ideas that count. It’s not how you well write a perfect story, but it’s what strong idea you have and how you tell it in your own way.

So be brave, be bold, be creative and most importantly enjoy.

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