Critter Lit

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debut interview

Interview with Illustrator Noël Ill

debut interview, Holiday Books, Illustrators, InterviewsLindsay Ward1 Comment

Happy Thursday Critters! Today we are joined by Noël ILL, an incredibly talented illustrator, whose new board book by Carole Gerber comes out this month with Familius. I love the art in this book— it’s charming, fun, and the perfect new book to share with your little ones this Halloween!

So without further ado…please welcome Noël ILL!

Artist_Portrait_Noel ILL.jpg

Where do you live?

I live in the Inland Empire. It’s in Southern, California, Southwest of San Bernardino County. There are beautiful mountains and sweet smelling orange trees everywhere.

Noël Ill dressed up as a kitten for Halloween when she was little.

Noël Ill dressed up as a kitten for Halloween when she was little.

When did you know you wanted to illustrate picture books?

As a kid, I was always drawing and my favorite assignments in elementary school were when the teacher would ask the class to write a short story and draw a picture to go with it. I knew then that I enjoyed illustrating stories. It wasn’t until I was in community college, before I went to art college, that I took a children’s literature class and realized I would love to illustrate children’s books. It was my main goal when I headed into ArtCenter.

Interior art from IF YOU’RE SCARY AND YOU KNOW IT! written by Carole Gerber, Illustrated by Noël Ill

Interior art from IF YOU’RE SCARY AND YOU KNOW IT! written by Carole Gerber, Illustrated by Noël Ill

Tell us about your road to publication, what did that involve for you?

It involved a lot of daydreaming and a little bit of confidence. After I graduated from ArtCenter, I was hoping to somehow get into illustrating children’s books, but I had no idea how. So, that’s where the daydreaming part came in. I was just dreaming of doing it with no actual tangible plan. Then I came across a job posting from ArtCenter’s job board where a local educational publishing company was looking for an illustrator to illustrate bilingual English and Spanish books with Hispanic themes. I immediately applied. I’m half Mexican and I felt very confident that with my illustration skills and my Hispanic cultural background combined, I would be a great fit for the job. I got the job and I still work with them today. The company is called Lectura Books and I’ve illustrated 11 books for them. I also post a lot of my original artwork online. That’s how the art director for If You’re Scary And You Know It! came across my work and got in contact with me. I’ve been illustrating professionally for over 10 years and even though I have illustrated many books for the educational market, this book is actually my first book in trade publishing.

Interior art from IF YOU’RE SCARY AND YOU KNOW IT! written by Carole Gerber, Illustrated by Noël Ill

Interior art from IF YOU’RE SCARY AND YOU KNOW IT! written by Carole Gerber, Illustrated by Noël Ill

Can you share a bit about your process?

First I start with looking up reference. I look up online the subject matter I will be working with. Or, if I have the time and the assignment has to do with something like for example, a horse, I will actually go to a place where I can see a real horse and take pictures of it and just observe the horse’s personality. Then I start sketching ideas in my sketchbook with pencil. I sketch out character ideas and layout composition ideas. After that, I move over to the computer where I began creating the illustration digitally.

What do you do to shake the rust off or get new ideas?

I do anything but art! I will even start to organize the clothes in my closet or organize boxes in my garage and then I start finding old stickers and trinkets I forgot I had which then starts my imagination going. It goes from, “Oh, I didn’t know I still had my sticker collection from the 1990s.” to “ I need to start drawing my own line of stickers!” It’s not too hard for me to get new ideas. So many things inspire me every day.

Anything you can’t live without while you draw?

Not really. The only thing I tend to always have or at least remember to have with me is a bottle of water to drink.

Interior art from IF YOU’RE SCARY AND YOU KNOW IT! written by Carole Gerber, Illustrated by Noël Ill

Interior art from IF YOU’RE SCARY AND YOU KNOW IT! written by Carole Gerber, Illustrated by Noël Ill

Any authors and/or illustrators who inspire you?

Yes, all of the illustrators that worked with Hallmark in the 1980s. I loved their greeting cards, the paper goods, the sticker sheets, plush toys, everything. I also love a series of books about holiday traditions by Edna Barth and illustrated by Ursula Arndt. I re-read the books almost every year. Probably the most popular book of that series would be the Halloween one, Witches Pumpkin’s and Grinning Ghosts: The Story of the Halloween Symbols. I love learning about the history of holidays and the line-art illustrations in them are great. I’m also hugely inspired by mid century illustrators. I’m drawn to the shapes and colors and creative use of space.

Dream project to work on?

I have so many! Besides wanting to team up with a manufacturer and become the next Lisa Frank, I would like to team up with one of the “big five” publishers and illustrate a book that helps children with dyslexia. I have dyslexia and I went through almost my whole academic life without knowing. I didn’t get diagnosed until I got to college. I always wished I could have started learning about it sooner. I think I would have been more confident in reading and writing back then had I known. It would be great to contribute to a project that helps kids with that.

Tell us about your debut book.

It’s called If You’re Scary And You Know It! written by the amazing, Carole Gerber. The book is Halloween themed with 10 full color spreads illustrating follow along movements and actions set to the tune of If You’re Happy And You Know It! Each page introduces the reader to a different child character in their Halloween costume, performing an action, whether it’s howling at the moon like a werewolf, shaking a limb like a scarecrow or bending your knee like a boney skeleton. It’s a great audience participation book and I know kids will have lots of fun following along.

What’s up next for you?

Currently, I am excited to get sketching more original ideas for the greeting cards and products I sell through my website.

And last, but not least, favorite 80s movie?

I love this question! There were so many good movies in the 80s it’s hard to choose, but I am going to say The Chipmunk Adventure. You can’t go wrong traveling the world in a hot air balloon singing rockin’ songs.


Huge thank you to for Noël Ill for stopping by Critter Lit today! We can’t wait to see your adorable board book out in the wild this month!


Noël ILL earned her BFA with honors in illustration from ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California. Throughout her design and illustration career, she has had the opportunity to apply her artwork and tasteful design sense to the publishing and entertainment media fields. Her more notable commercial work includes production art for the quirky HBO animated series, The Life and Times of Tim, the “Be Mine” sticker pack for Facebook stickers, and “The Sweetest Little Ghost” her licensed illustration for Papyrus greeting cards.

FOR MORE INFORMATION about Noël ILL visit her online or follow her on social media:

Twitter: @noelillart

Instagram: @noelill

Facebook

TO ORDER Noël ILL’s book, ring up your local bookstore or click here.

BOOK GIVEAWAY!

Want a chance to win a copy of IF YOU’RE SCARY AND YOU KNOW IT?! Comment on this post or share it on Twitter. One lucky winner will be selected Thursday, August 22nd! US addresses only please.

Interview with Debut Author June Smalls

Authors, debut interviewLindsay Ward2 Comments

Happy Thursday Critters! Today’s interview is with June Smalls, whose debut picture book ODD ANIMAL ABC’S, illustrated by Claire Sedovic, released in May. We are so thrilled to have her with us today!

So without further ado…please welcome June Smalls!

June+Smalls.jpg

Where do you live?

I live just outside of DC in the Shenandoah Valley.

When did you know you wanted to write picture books?

It’s funny, but when I first started thinking of writing for traditional publication, I thought of romance. But just because I liked to read it didn’t mean I was any good at writing it.

 When my child was little she loved books. I caught myself reading her picture books even after she’d fallen asleep. I loved the full and beautiful stories with short and pithy lines. I remembered the joy of discovering library books as a kid. Then I had one idea…it led to another… and then I couldn’t shake it. I had to write kid lit.

Tell us about your road to publication, what did that involve for you?

I’m an overnight success. It only took about 5 or 6 years to get there.

Like many writers, I had a lot to learn. My first picture books were way too long, I wasn’t leaving room for the illustrator, and I sent things out before they were ready (*The Horror!*)

Luckily, I love learning. I joined SCBWI. I joined critique groups. I attended conferences and classes. Bit by bit I improved and learned patience.

I’d gone from getting form rejections to personal rejections and finally I had two offers of rep from agents.

I signed with Rebecca Angus at Golden Wheat in 2018, sold two picture books with her and I did my first two work for hire books as well in the same year. I went from nothing for a few years to GOOD GRAVY! Four books with my name on them.

Can you share a bit about your process?

I’m weird and don’t have a single process. Some books come to me like a lightening bolt and I jot down a rough draft quickly. Some ideas need to marinate for a while. I toyed with one idea for months without writing more than the title idea.

When I write, I prefer to get comfy on my couch, noise canceling headphones go on (this also lets my family know it is writing time and not to bug me needlessly), and work on whichever project is speaking to me at the time.

What do you do to shake the rust off or get new ideas?

I tend to have a number of projects going at once unless I’m on a deadline. For me this keeps things fresh and interesting. Sometimes I just take a few days off writing and daydream instead. I do not live by the ‘write everyday’ rule. But I tend to write or research most days.

Anything you can’t live without while you write?

Not really. I love my headphones since they get me in the zone. But I’ll write anywhere and everywhere by any means necessary. On receipts in a restaurant, on my phone in a waiting room, or at my computer with a soda and dogs at my feet. I just have to write!

Any authors and/or illustrators who inspire you?

All of them! Inspiration can be found in everything. I love the humor of Ame Dykman’s Wolfie the Bunny illustrated by Zachariah OHora.

I love the read-aloud-ability of The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith and illustrated by Katz Cowley.

I love the heart and art of Swan by Laurel Snyder and illustrated by Julie Morstad.

I LOVE The Dot by by Peter H. Reynolds.

Just try to read these without feeling inspired. There are many more, but this could be a blog series by itself.

Dream project to work on?

Well, I’m a huge Scooby Doo fan…

Seriously though, my personal dream projects are the ones that make kids want to pick up another book. Whether to continue laughing or to learn something new because I’ve sparked their curiosity. There is no one book that is my dream. This may sound corny, but it’s all I’ve got.

Tell us about your debut book.

Odd Animal ABC’s is illustrated by Claire Sedovic and her amazing watercolors.

Those classic animals have been overworked so the odd animals who have been overlooked take over the alphabet and send the classics packing.

It's time for Aye-Aye, Fossa, Numbat, Xenops and more curious, yet real animals to shine.

Some letters even get more than one odd new animal. (This was not because I liked both animals so much that I couldn't choose just one... really…)

What’s up next for you?

I have a lyrical non-fiction called She Leads: They Elephant Matriarch coming out in spring of 2020 with Familius. I also have several picture books, a chapter book, and novelty books out on submission.

And last, but not least, favorite 80s movie?

Only one!? The Princess Bride. The cast, the sword fights, the rodents of unusual size! Just a great all-around movie… oh yeah, and the love story too.


Huge thank you to June for stopping by Critter Lit today! Congrats on your debut and all your upcoming projects!


JUNE SMALLS lives in Northern Virginia with her hubby, the kid, and her own odd assortment of animals. She writes children’s literature for the trade and educational markets.

FOR MORE INFORMATION about June visit her online or follow her on social media:

Twitter: @June_Smalls

TO ORDER June’s book, ring up your local bookstore or click here.

BOOK GIVEAWAY!

Want a chance to win a copy of ODD ANIMAL ABC’S?! Comment on this post or share it on Twitter. One lucky winner will be selected Thursday, August 15th! US addresses only please.

Interview with Debut Author Hannah Stark

Authors, Interviews, debut interviewLindsay Ward2 Comments

Happy Thursday Critters! Today we have an interview with debut picture book author Hannah Stark. Her first book, TRUCKER AND TRAIN, illustrated by Bob Kolar, comes out on August 6th with Clarion Books and has received fabulous reviews. Vehicle books are big in our household so I can’t wait for this one to come out! We are so excited to have her with us today to share about her debut book and her road to publication.

So without further ado…please welcome Hannah Stark!

Hannah Stark Author Photo.JPG

Where do you live?

I live in Brooklyn, NY.

When did you know you wanted to write picture books?

Ever since I was a kid I enjoyed writing but never thought I’d share it with others, namely keeping travel journals and pocket notebooks. In 2004 I started teaching third grade in the New York City Public Schools.  We did a project with the book Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier. I was inspired by how this picture book grew awareness for the organization Heifer International and was positively impacting so many people.  

My boyfriend at the time ran a non-profit in Senegal and we spent a summer living in Dakar. While he worked I did a ton of reading, writing, and exploring. I started writing down stories I heard the kids tell and making up stories of my own. By the end of the summer I had a notebook of stories drafted. I never did anything with those stories but for the first time my writing had arc. For the first time, I wondered if I could someday write my own picture book. 

Tell us about your road to publication, what did that involve for you?

In 2013 I decided to apply to author/illustrator Pat Cummings Picture Book Boot Camp in Brooklyn with half a draft of TRUCKER AND TRAIN.  Pat saw potential in the story from the beginning. She really challenged me to walk out of Boot Camp with a polished project and somehow I did. Afterwards, she encouraged me to start submitting the manuscript. Five editors passed on the project before Lynne Polvino at Clarion Books/HMH Kids believed in it and helped me bring my story into the world.

Can you share a bit about your process?

As a third grade teacher and single mom I write in spurts when my schedule (and energy level) allow. The first drafts of TRUCKER AND TRAIN were actually pecked into my phone while riding the subway to work. There are post-its of first lines hanging on my kitchen wall. I add to them when I cook or clean. Sometimes my boys help me with them over dinner.

I like writing by hand and draft in pencil in an oversized artist’s book. When I feel ready to move forward with a page or draft I type it up, print it, and then revise on that page in pencil. When I’m happy with my revisions I edit them on the computer, print it, and repeat the process over and over.  

What do you do to shake the rust off or get new ideas?

For me, there are many ideas but not enough time. When I don’t get to look at a project for a few weeks because things are busy I usually start by just sitting and reading beautiful writing. These days that tends to be something by Jacqueline Woodson or Mary Oliver.  

Anything you can’t live without while you write?

There’s nothing concrete. I think the only thing I really need is a reminder to be patient with myself.

Any authors and/or illustrators who inspire you?

I’m really inspired by Sophie Blackall and how she persisted with her career as a single mom. The Horn Book just printed her Caldecott Medal acceptance speech and she describes working on books at the kitchen table while her kids did their homework. That sounds a lot like my home.  

I’m also inspired by Rob Sanders who I was in a course at the Highlights Foundation with in 2018. He’s also an elementary school teacher and has been creating books in the hours when school is not in session. I’m so inspired by his career that started as a teacher with a writing passion side hustle. I’m so happy to see his career really take off with the releases of PRIDE and STONEWALL. He’s also a super sweet person.  

Dream project to work on? 

I’d love to write humor. We laugh a lot in my classroom and I think I get kid humor but I’ve never tried anything like it before.  

Tell us about your debut book.

My book TRUCKER AND TRAIN is about a big rig named Trucker who loves to rule the road with his size, strength, and mighty horn. One day he meets the larger, stronger, and louder Train. Trucker quickly realizes that Train is bigger, stronger, and louder but isn’t using his might for power. Instead, Train is well-adored by the other vehicles. TRUCKER AND TRAIN is a story about using our strengths for good. 

I was inspired to write the story when my son was three. I saw how some kids in his class relied on their size and strength during play since their verbal expression was just starting to develop. I hope the book is seen as more than a book about trucks and trains for vehicle loving toddlers. I hope young readers and their adults will use it to open up conversations about kindness, compassion, and the idea that with great power comes great opportunity.  

What’s up next for you?

I’ve been working on three non-fiction and historical fiction manuscripts. I love history and untold stories that kids can connect to today. The projects are geared towards an older reader than TRUCKER AND TRAIN but they are true passion projects and I love developing them. My goal is to get two of them submitted this summer. Fingers crossed!

And last, but not least, favorite 80’s movie?

Without a doubt it has to be Sixteen Candles.


Huge thank you to Hannah Stark for stopping by Critter Lit today! Congrats on your debut picture book, we are so excited for you and can’t wait to see it on shelves!


HANNAH STARK grew up watching her mom, Marisabina Russo, create picture books in her studio. She remembers a house filled with children's books as well as bags of teaching materials because her father was a teacher. Today Hannah's home is filled with picture books and teaching materials, too. Hannah has been teaching elementary school in the New York City Public Schools for fifteen years. She loves making and sharing resources for other educators and teaching kids to write. She was inspired to write her debut book, TRUCKER AND TRAIN, while playing with her sons, Jackson and Travis. When not writing or teaching, Hannah can be found taking road trips and train rides to unfamiliar places.

FOR MORE INFORMATION about Hannah visit her online or follow her on social media:

Twitter

Instagram

TO ORDER Hannah’s book, ring up your local bookstore or click here.

BOOK GIVEAWAY!

Want a chance to win a copy of TRUCKER AND TRAIN?! Comment on this post or share it on Twitter. One lucky winner will be selected Thursday, August 8th! US addresses only please.