Hello, Joyce, thank you for joining me for an interview to talk about what’s new for you in 2016!
Thank YOU, Dylan, for being such a great champion of children’s books and their creators. It’s my pleasure to share!
Tell us a little bit about the new Peep and Egg series you’re doing with Laura Gehl- we’ve seen one, we know another is on the way in 2016, and there are two more after that, correct?
Peep and Egg are characters in a funny new picture book series for toddlers in which a reluctant chick overcomes her fears. What initially started as a two-book project became a four-book project over the course of working on the first two books and are being published by the amazing team at FSG, Macmillan. “Peep and Egg: I’m Not Hatching” was released in February. “Peep and Egg: I’m Not Trick-or-Treating” will be released in August. Then there will be a “Peep and Egg: I’m Not Taking a Bath” which I just completed that will be out Fall of 2017 and a “Peep and Egg: I’m Not Eating That” which will be released Winter 2018.
The two characters are a joy to draw because they are such opposites personality-wise, and so expressive in their dialogue. The books are also written almost completely in dialogue making them really fun read-alouds.
Tell us a little bit more about the book you illustrated, Pug Meets Pig.
“Pug Meets Pig” is a book about embracing change, being kind to others, and finding friends in unlikely places. The book was written by debut author Sue Gallion who won the 2013 Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award at the SCBWI-LA conference for this manuscript and it will be released in September 2016 by the fabulous team at Beach Lane Books, Simon & Schuster.
Do you prefer writing and illustrating your own books, or do you prefer illustrating other people’s books as well?
I feel like they are so different from each other that I can’t really compare. There is more freedom with writing and illustrating your own books, which I enjoy, as it is completely your own vision. However, illustrating other people’s manuscripts has helped me grow as an illustrator because I end up drawing things that I might not normally draw if I wrote the book myself so I feel like that has helped me become a more versatile illustrator. I love doing both and I’m so grateful to be busy with both.
What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?
I don’t grasp my pencil “correctly” which can occasionally cause hand cramps during intense drawing sessions but it’s never stopped me from doing what I love!
If you weren’t writing and illustrating books, what do you think you’d be doing?
Working at a creative start-up of some sort. I love the energy and excitement of creating and launching something new.
How did your career as an author/illustrator start?
I designed a greeting card when I was 6 years old for a Boston city-wide greeting card design contest. The design won first place and was subsequently sold through a major department store chain. Because of the contest, I even got to meet the governor of Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis, and had my picture in the Boston Globe. As you can imagine, this experience had a major impact on me as a young child and it encouraged me to keep drawing. I grew up on welfare in low-income housing in inner-city Boston for a greater part of my youth. Coming from an immigrant family with limited means, art was not necessarily encouraged – not as a means to make a living anyway. I went on to study architecture at Barnard College thinking it was the “practical” thing to do for someone who was interested in the arts. However, after working in the field of architecture for a couple years I realized it was not very fulfilling – in fact, I hated it. With no formal art education other than a college figure drawing class and a huge leap of faith, I started my design studio Wanart in 2003 with an initial focus on designing and manufacturing my own greeting card line. When I first started Wanart, I was working at a 9am-6pm job at an architectural firm. I would spend the night/early morning hours on my own business with only a few hours of sleep in between the two “jobs”. I did this for two years before I quit my full time job to pursue my own business full-time. I spent the early years taking lots of continuing education classes, taking odd jobs here and there when I needed money, reading lots of marketing books, trying many different things, making many mistakes, teaching myself design programs like Photoshop and Illustrator, spending lots of money (or, I like to call it, investing in myself), and drawing—lots of drawing, relying on nothing but hope and passion to keep me going most of the time. I continually put myself out there and exhibited my products at trade shows all over the country with the help of a very supportive husband. Between the trial and error (and tears!) were some small successes, and then a major break came when I met the art director from my first publisher, Blue Apple Books, in 2008 at the New York International Gift Show. The art director told me they had seen my cards in stores, had been following my work, and even had some of my cards in their office. This led to the publication of my first book Greetings from Kiwi and Pear which was based on one of my best-selling greeting card lines. Since then I’ve had 12 more books published with several more under contract in the next few years. I’ve worked /working with with Cartwheel/Scholastic, PSS!/Penguin, Beach Lane Books/S&S, & FSG/Macmillan. It is a dream come true.
What can readers expect from you in the future?
I have two new holiday-themed board books coming out later this year with Cartwheel/Scholastic that I’m excited about that are inspired by my best-selling “You Are My Cupcake” called “You Are My Pumpkin” (June 2016) and “You are My Merry Little Christmas” (Sept. 2016).
Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?
I love connecting with folks online!
Thank you, Joyce, for joining me here!