Hey Lori! Thanks for joining me here to talk about all you have in store!
Thanks for having me, Dylan!
Tell us a little bit about A Hop Is Up!
A HOP IS UP is a picture book poem about all sorts of movements, written by the wonderful Kristy Dempsey. It’s perfect for wiggly, giggly pre-K or Kindergarten kids but can also function as an early reader for children learning to read on their own. Kristy’s text was a blank canvas for me as the illustrator—without any characters, setting, or traditional story arc mentioned in the words, I got to create the entire visual narrative from scratch!
Tell us a little bit about your process.
Initially, I presented two concepts to Bloomsbury. The first one featured a kangaroo and a rabbit on an obstacle course! But I’m happy we opted for the boy taking his dog on a walk because it’s friendlier and more familiar to the youngest readers. Because Kristy’s text flows so beautifully from one line to the next when read aloud, I wanted the illustrations to do the same. If you look carefully, each spread hints at what is coming next to create a continuous visual story. The text starts and ends with “A hop is up,” so the art begins with the boy and dog leaving home, and ends with them arriving back home. There is also a gardener and her cat that we meet in the beginning, and they make a surprising return near the end. This took a lot of planning. How would I demonstrate each movement, and have the context make sense, and tease what’s coming next, butnot feel like I forced the whole thing? I went through many post-its, drawings of neighborhood maps, and many, many sketches. I loved tackling this challenge and it was a really exciting one for a first-time illustrator.
2017 is a big year for you as you potentially have two new titles coming as author AND Illustrator. Tell us about those.
PAX AND BLUE (February 2017, Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books) is a gentle story about an unexpected friendship between a boy and a pigeon, inspired by a true story my son told me. BUNNY’S STAYCATION (2017, Scholastic) went to a five-house auction, which was nerve-wracking and craaaazy! This book has many autobiographical aspects to it — it is about Bunny, who attempts to foil his Mama’s business trip and creates his own adventure. A parent traveling for work is not easy on the child or the parent. is a stressful, common issue that so many families deal with every day.
You share a studio space, correct? What’s that like?
I’m part of Friends Work Here in Brooklyn, a space created by my dear friend and design blog superstar Swissmiss, Tina Roth Eisenberg. We have an eclectic bunch of creatives in our studio: photographers, designers, videographers, illustrators, and writers. It’s great to see what everyone else is working on and learn and be inspired by people working in other disciplines. Friends is so much more than a shared studio. It’s a community.
Have you always been into writing and illustrating?
I’ve loved to draw since I was little, and my professional career was always in different types of design. I worked at several media companies and was a contributing editor to pregnancy and parenting brand, The Bump. So, I always had the drawing and a little bit of the writing, but not together and not in children’s books! Weirdly, my first design job out of college was doing promotional design for adult titles at Little Brown. Funny how things come full circle!
What’s the most exciting part of your job?
I’m doing so many things for the first time, so it’s all really exciting! But having my two boys see me do work that is meaningful, and experience the ups and downs right along with me (I share the good stuff but also tell them about every rejection) is everything to me and I hope it inspires them in the future. And nothing beats seeing a book you made, as a real thing, for the very first time. I never want that to get old.
What inspires your creativity?
In writing, much of it comes from real life. In drawing, it comes from so many places. Living in a vibrant place like New York City serves as an endless source of inspiration.
What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?
I rocked the 5th grade spelling bee. My moment of triumph was on the word “bivouac.”
If you weren’t writing books, what do you think you’d be doing?
I was a corporate Creative Director for 20+ years before starting to work on books, so, I’m sure I’d still be doing that. I still do design projects as part of my freelance work. My fantasy-but-likely-to-never-happen careers are forensic scientist and storm chaser. (Didn’t see that coming, did you?!)
What can readers expect from you in the future?
In addition to PAX AND BLUE and BUNNY’S STAYCATION, there will be a second BUNNY book with Scholastic, and I’m illustrating SKELLY’S HALLOWEEN written by David Martin and published by Macmillan/Henry Holt (August 2018.) I have something else in the pipeline that I can’t share quite yet, but hopefully soon!
Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?
If there’s something you dream of doing, just start. Today. Little steps, over time, get big results.