Monday, February 25, 2013

A Peek at the Creative Space of Tricia Springstubb


Tricia Springstubb is the author of many books for young readers including the middle grade novels What Happened on Fox Street and its sequel Mo Wren, Lost and Found. 

What Happened on Fox Street was an Indie 2010 pick, received starred reviews from Kirkus and The Horn Book, and was named to the Kirkus, Washington Post, and Bank Street School "Best Books of the Year" lists.

Publishing next month is Tricia's picture book Phoebe and Digger, about a little girl who becomes a big sister and relies on her her favorite toy to help her through the transition.

If you enjoy this interview, you might also enjoy reading what Tricia had to say about writing spaces of her past. You can learn more about her and her books by visiting her website and her blog







Describe your workspace.

I love my work space, especially the windows. They look out on the street, so I can distract myself with all the kids and dogs and bicycles going by. From spring through fall I can see my blooming perennial garden. Over the years I've worked in a lot of spaces, most of them small and barricaded against my children, so it's very luxurious to have a big desk and lots of natural light. Two other things I love about the space are my desk is so beat up spilled coffee doesn't matter, and my cats frequently visit me there.



Describe a typical workday.

My typical workday begins with some cat-petting and coffee-drinking. 

one cat on my lap

I check e-mail and always send notes to my three grown daughters, who live (sigh) on the exciting East Coast. I wade into my writing day slowly, re-reading what I've done the day before and the notes I've made for today's work, till finally my feet can't touch bottom any more and I'm swimming forward. I usually write for three or four hours before I take a break for a long walk, where I mull things over and often work out problems (always, always, I carry a pen and paper!). Afternoons, I work on my blog, or a book review. Evenings, of course, are for reading.

my other cat helping me work


What do you listen to while you work?

I never listen to music or anything else (besides my own voice whispering the words out loud) while I write. It's too distracting, and gets stuck in my head. 

toys and gifts from friends and readers



What keeps you focused while you’re working?

After writing for thirty years, I don't have any trouble staying focused. I've got a big strong focus muscle. I have to admit, though, that when I'm stuck, checking e-mail is a huge temptation for me. I'm considering getting that software that locks you out of the internet for a certain amount of time for your own good!

Lake Erie rocks--my next book is set on an island in the lake


Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?

I write exclusively on the computer these days. My hand just can't keep up with my brain, and I do so much revising, right from the very beginning. 

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

I've never succeeded in making an outline I could stick to, though I try not to begin a piece unless I know (or think I know) how it will end, and what the general narrative arc is. I'm on the third draft of my new middle grade novel, and each one has been substantially different from the other two. The setting is the one thing that has stayed wholly the same. A sense of place is very important to me, second only to voice. I have a new picture book coming out this March. It's called Phoebe and Digger, and it's about a little girl whose alter ego is her toy digger. Originally, Phoebe's toy was a rubber gorilla--this was straight out of real life with one of my girls. Picture books are just as demanding as novels, and I worked really hard on those 600 words!

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

If I had to share my work place with anyone, it would be my husband, because by now he's very adept at giving me my own space! 

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?

There is so much good writing advice to be had. I feature some nearly every week on my blog. But my current favorite is from Louise Erdrich, a superb and humble writer. "I'd be paralyzed if I thought I had to write a great novel. I approach the work as if, in truth, I'm nothing and the words are everything." 


Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Peek at the Creative Space of Sarah Frances Hardy

Sarah Frances Hardy is the author and illustrator of Puzzled by Pink, which was published by Viking Children's Books in April 2012. From the publisher:

Izzy hates pink as much as her sister, Rose, loves it. So when Rose plans an all-pink birthday party with the guests dressed in fairy costumes, Izzy decides to give her own alternative party in the attic, where the guests will be monsters, spiders, ghosts, and the pet cat. But some powerful magic triggers the appearance of yet another guest--an unexpected one. This will be a party nobody forgets!

Sarah's also hard at work on several more books including a YA and middle grade novel. You can learn more about her and her work by visiting her website and her blog



Describe your workspace.

My workspace is located off the back of our garage where most people have a storage room, so even though it's attached to my house, it has a separate outside entrance. This gives me a bit of psychological distance from my home and the constant nagging of the laundry mountain, dinner, unmade beds . . . but I'm still here if my children need anything or if I need to take the chicken out of the freezer so we have something to eat for dinner.



The style of my space is eclectic. My floors, wonderful beat-up heart pine, are reclaimed from the house where I grew up, and I've populated my studio with things I love--things like my tattered but comfy writing chair and crazy quilt ottoman, artwork, more reclaimed wood lining the walls, my drafting table that I received for my fifteenth birthday, and of course, my Tim Gunn bobblehead ("Make it work!").


Describe a typical workday.

Most days I drop my children off at school and head straight to yoga or the gym. When I get home and fix my second cup of coffee around 9:00, I head out to my studio. I usually spend about thirty minutes checking emails and reading blogs. Next, I do a few sketches (I've been copying Old Masters' drawings lately) just to get warmed up and get my head in a good place. I start off my work day sketching even if I'm going to write; it just helps ground me.

Next, if I'm working on picture book illustrations, then I dig in and either begin painting or sketching. Right now, though, I'm working on revisions of the text of an illustrated middle grade novel, so after my few minutes of sketching, I've been heading to my computer to write.

I work until around 2:40 when I have to hit the carpool lines and pick up my girls from school. If I'm on deadline or really involved in a project, I sneak back out to my studio at night and work for a few more hours.

What media do you use and which is your favorite? (If you do digital art, what software do you use?)

In the planning phases, I use a combination of pencil on paper sketches with digital images. I start with a few sketches on paper and I scan them into my computer using Photoshop and my Wacom tablet to manipulate the images. This is how I create my book dummy which is what I submit to my agent (and later to publishers along with a few final illustrations).

For my final artwork, I've been using gouache on Strathmore illustration board. I water down the pigments and use them much like watercolor paints, but with gouache, I've discovered that you can build up layers and get some intense color. I love color!!

List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

1. The floors in my studio came from the house I grew up in. A few years ago, my mom happened to drive by and the new owners were ripping out the floors and putting them in a dumpster. These are floors that she had salvaged from an old home in Natchez, Mississippi, so she grabbed a truck and did some dumpster diving! Since the workers weren't careful when they pulled up the floors, they're in pretty bad shape with lots of dings and gouges, but that's part of the reason I love them . . . and why they're perfect for my studio.



2. My writer friends Irene Latham and Pat Weaver surprised me with this wonderful (and warm) blanket inspired by my debut picture book which came out last April. One side of it is pink and flowery like my character Rose, and the other side is covered in spiders for my off-beat character Izzy.



3. Um, my bathroom. The fact that I can stay out here for hours and hours without having to go inside and be distracted by the stuff-of-life, is one of my favorite things about my studio. We almost didn't put in a bathroom because of the expense--I was just going to have a sink for washing paintbrushes--but I am so glad we did!

Do you have any rituals in your work habits? If so, describe them.

Only the ones described above in my typical work day . . .  although I guess I should add that it's rare to have a typical workday! I have three children, so I'm often on sick duty or taking someone to the orthodontist. Plus, I do some volunteer work (although I'm finally learning that it's important to protect my writing time).

What do you listen to while you work?

If I'm drawing or painting, I love my Van Morrison Pandora mix. If I get tired of that, I have several go-to artists: Ingrid Michelson, Eric Hutchinson, Ben Harper, Dave Matthews, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac (Rumours), Of Monsters and Men, old R.E.M., Regina Spektor, Taj Mahal . . . and anything blues.

When writing, though, I can't listen to anything with words, so I click on my Pandora yoga radio mix and get in the zone.

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

Coffee with vanilla soy milk in the morning and a giant Turvis Tumbler full of ice water later in the day. Dark chocolate mid-afternoon.

What keeps you focused while you’re working?

I'm not!!! I take lots of tiny breaks all day long (mostly to read non-writing related blogs).

Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?

For novels, I brainstorm longhand in notebooks, but once I get past brainstorming I write on my computer. I love using Scrivener, especially for the first few drafts. 

When I'm working on a picture book, I write the words along with a very rough storyboard with stick-people sketches. I have to be able to see how the words and pictures are going to interact as I'm writing.

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

I come up with lots of ideas (often when I'm supposed to be meditating and emptying my mind in yoga). But I've learned that ideas are cheap!! It takes a ton of work to develop an idea into a workable plan for a story. I brainstorm ideas in my notebooks, asking myself "what if" over and over again. Few of these ideas make it past the brainstorming stage (maybe 5%). When I've taken the "what ifs" pretty far and think I have a workable concept for a story, I'll run it by my agent before I really start developing it. Then I'll do a rough outline so I know in general where I'm going before I start writing.

What aspect of illustrating do you find most challenging and why?

My hand is so much slower than my brain! I wish I could take a screen shot of the pictures in my brain and have them magically appear onto my paper. I get frustrated with the amount of time each illustration takes, although in the end it is rewarding.

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

Quentin Blake. I adore him!

What is the best piece of writing/illustrating advice you’ve heard or received?

Join SCBWI. I learned so much from going to conferences and getting to know other writers through SCBWI events.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What's in a Room

One of my favorite things Mindy Hardwick shared in her Creative Spaces interview was that she keeps a picture of her childhood room near her desk. What a great idea for inspiration! It reminded me of this photo my parents emailed earlier this year when they saw a present-day photo of the cluttered floor of my office. (Which I was in the middle of organizing, to be fair. But to be even more fair, I am perpetually in the middle of organizing something so I guess it often looks like that.)

This was me "cleaning my room". I think it may have looked better before I started.








This photo must look like an insignificant mess to anyone else, but so many memories are represented here. Tigger slippers, artwork, Keds, a stuffed dog my brother won for me at a carnival game (which I never would have remembered without seeing it in the back corner of this pic), letters to or from pen pals, a multi-color changing pen, photo albums and notebooks, our cute cat Gizmo. . .

I'm zapped right back in time looking at this photo. What a useful tool when you're trying to put yourself in the mindset of a child or teenager! I'm also reminded of how important specific details are to characterization. That list of items in the above paragraph probably gives you a much better idea of what I was like as a kid than if I'd simply said "my bedroom floor was often cluttered" or even "cluttered with papers and stuffed animals". The specifics provide clues to my interests, personality, and the time period.

What was (or is) your childhood room like?

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Peek at the Creative Space of Mindy Hardwick


Mindy Hardwick's most recent novel is Weaving Magic, a young adult novel published last spring. The story is based on her experience running a poetry and young adult literature workshop with teens in juvenile detention.

Stained Glass Summer, an upper middle grade novel from Musa Publishing, was most recently listed as a 2013 EPIC ebook Finalist in the children’s category. The audio book version of Stained Glass Summer is now availableVisit the Stained Glass Summer Facebook page for more information and to see photos of teens working in glass art.

Mindy holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College and is a member of SCBWI. She is hard at work on a memoir about her experience running the juvenile detention poetry workshop. You can learn more about her by visiting her blog or following her on Twitter @mindyhardwick. 










Describe your workspace.

Most of my work is done at my desk in a second floor loft.  I try to keep everything organized! Next to my desk, I have two bookshelves. One holds all my writing craft and style books. The other bookshelf holds research for my current work-in-progress, notes for my current-works-in progress, as well as two shelves full of books about teaching poetry to youth.  I also keep all my notes and journals about running a poetry and YA literature workshop with teens in juvenile detention on those shelves.

In front of me is a bulletin board. This is my favorite place of my workspace. I keep notes and cards kids have sent me about my books, a list of my goals for the next six months, and positive emails sent from editors or others about my books.  Next to the bulletin board, is a wall with a picture of me presenting a poetry workshop to eighth graders at the middle school where I attended in St Louis. My grandfather took the picture and we found it when he passed away recently. I also have a picture of the house I lived in when I was in Kindergarten through third grade. That was one of the happiest times of my life and the times when I remember being the most creative. I like to look at that picture and think of my creative self at age seven as I write. 

But, sometimes that space gets a little overloaded with the “business” of writing. (Workshop schedules, invoices, blogging, etc), and I need to free my creativity. Then, I take my laptop to my dining room table. I have an amazing view of the Cascade Mountains and Lake Stevens. It’s very inspiring to look at as I work through a draft of a story.



Describe a typical workday.

I get up at 6 A.M. This is my dog Stormy’s favorite time of the morning. I make coffee, do a little bit of journaling, and read an inspirational daily reading. Often when I make coffee, I scroll through my blogs on my Google reader on my phone. I spend the first part of the morning answering emails and responding to blogs, tweeting, or checking Facebook.  I have a good friend from graduate school who lives in Cyprus. We email almost every day about writing and life.  Two times a week, I go to yoga in the morning, so I take a break on those mornings for yoga.

I also spent the morning responding to my teacher student work (I teach distance learning classes to educators for Seattle Pacific University.). If I have edits from an editor, I may also work on those.  Or, if I am teaching a class that week, I use the morning to work on the class or workshop material.

The afternoon is my creative time and when I write.  It seems to quiet down in my email at that time of the day and I can free my mind a bit more.  If I can’t write in that time, I will try to read.

Evenings are for family, friends, and a variety of social groups I belong to including a young adult book group where we read only YA books.


List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

I have a picture of myself with Norma Fox Mazer and a group of teens at a National Book Foundation Summer Writing Camp. That was the first workshop I ever attended and it was what kicked off my writing journey.

I have a card with an illustration of a girl, arms outstretched, standing on the beach in front of Haystack rock at Cannon Beach.  The illustration is from Steidel’s Art Gallery in Cannon Beach.  The Northern Oregon Coast is my favorite place and that picture represents how I feel when I am on the coast—free and filled with unlimited possibilities.

I have a picture of my bedroom when I was in second grade. It is a snowy, Central Illinois day and the snow is piled high outside my window. On my desk are crayons and paper. Next to the desk is a bookcase filled with my favorite childhood books.  That picture reminds me of how I loved to read, draw, and write as a child, and reminds me to bring that same spirit into my work today.

Do you have any rituals in your work habits? If so, describe them.

I don’t have any rituals except sitting down and getting to work!

What do you listen to while you work?

The dogs barking in the neighborhood.  I’ve never been one to listen to music or anything when I work. I hear the story as I write and that seems to fill up my mind and ears.  

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

Coffee with vanilla flavored cream! Always!

What keeps you focused while you’re working?

Deadlines and when I don’t have a deadline, my goals. I revise and readjust my goals on a regular basis, but I also post them on the bulletin board in front of me. They keep me focused and going.

Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?

Most of what I write is on the computer. My mind races too fast with the story and words and I can’t keep up writing longhand. But, I do write longhand to flesh out characters or plot ideas or to get a story idea. Once I feel the story or character begin to come together, I move to the computer.

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

I used to just let the character guide me. However, the romance writers at RWA Conferences taught me a lot about outlining and plotting beforehand. I find plotting to be extremely valuable. I can outline a story plot, and then it gives me a map to follow as I draft.  I don’t have to do nearly as many drafts when I outline. But, I do revise and revise my outline as needed.

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

My sister! She’s very creative and she does a lot of different creative things from scrapbooking to writing to art.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?

Every story will be different and it’s important to keep learning how to write. I used to think that if I figured out how to write one story, I would know how to write all stories. While it’s true that all stories have some similarities, each story has its own challenges and issues.  It’s important to keep learning by reading, attending workshops, talking to other writers, and listening to the work-in-progress.

15 Days of Giveaways Winners


Congratulations to all the 15 Days of Giveaways winners! Thank you everyone for revisiting these interviews with me and commenting. If you are the winning commenter listed below and have not already done so, please email me with your mailing address so I can send your book out to you.

Brand new Creative Spaces interviews will begin again this week, with a new one posted each week. I hope you all enjoy!


15 Days of Giveaways Winners:

Trauma Queen: Becky

The Snow Show:  Linda

Faithful: Veronica

That Girl is Different: Amy C.

The Grand Plan to Fix Everything: Joanne

The Two Bobbies: Amy C.

The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister: Portia

The Candymakers: Adriana

Hot, Hot Roti: Andrea

Buglette: Carrie

Busing Brewster: Michelle

Pirate vs. Pirate: Beth

Square Cat: Mrs. Brown

I So Don't. . . mysteries: Dawn

Nightshade City: Veronica

Friday, February 8, 2013

15 Days of Giveaways: Hilary Wagner

This interview originally ran in October of 2010. The White Assassin, the follow up to Nightshade City, was published in 2011. To win an advanced reader copy of Nightshade City leave a comment on this post.

Congratulations, Veronica! You've won the ARC of NIGHTSHADE CITY! 


This week we get to peek at the creative space of debut author Hilary Wagner. Her first middle grade novel, Nightshade City, was published this month.  

Nightshade City is about an underground kingdom of rats where three orphan rats band together to overthrow an oppressive ruler. No less than author Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson and the Olympians series) recommended the novel saying, "Fans of Redwall and the Warrior series will love this heroic tale of good versus evil in a subterranean society of rats. The world of the Catacombs is so compelling readers will wonder if it really might exist under our city streets."

To learn more about Nightshade City you can visit the book's website where you can view the trailer, read reviews, and learn some cool rat facts. (I was fascinated to learn that rats can learn their names and will come when called, and that they have belly buttons!)

In addition to writing, Hilary is also a talented painter. (I believe the piece on her wall is one of her own.) She has a degree in fine art and her paintings have appeared in numerous galleries and exhibitions in the Chicago area, where she lives with her family.

And now let's learn a little about Hilary and where and how she writes:



Describe your workspace.

I write on my favorite couch in the family room, nice and cozy in the corner. This room always seems to give me inspiration. It lets just enough natural light in and has all my favorite colors. Note the glaringly red painting on the wall! ;)


Describe a typical workday.


A workday with me is never typical! I have family, which includes two small children, a job, and a neurotic dog, who always seems to need to go outside when I'm at a pinnacle point in my writing! ;)

List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

1. I love my Acer laptop, sounds silly, but it's my baby! I can't imagine having to replace it.
2. My statue guy--David. He's thoughtful, quiet and digs all my ideas!
3. My stone rat, Juniper. My daughter named him after one of Nightshade City's main characters. He's the one on the cover.


Do you have any rituals in your work habits? If so, describe them.


The only ritual I can think of is emailing myself my MS, even if I only add one paragraph! I'm always worried about losing data, even with a zip drive because I had one fail before, but luckily I could retrieve everything from email. Email is the poor man's (or in my case, the lazy woman's) zip drive!

What do you listen to while you work?

I usually keep the TV on very, very low--just audible. I like to have a little background noise or my mind will only concentrate on the silence. Many times, I have my 2 and 7 year old playing in the background, who frequently mimic stampeding elephants, so you can imagine how deafening pure silence would be!


What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

I'm a coffee snob! I have one of those amazing grind and brew pots. I've got to have fresh coffee--sad I know, but I like to blame Starbucks. They've totally spoiled me. In the afternoon, Diet Pepsi Max is my main man, I'm slightly addicted! I only have one though or I get way too cold!


What keeps you focused while you’re working?

Gosh, I suppose the pure drive to create! If only I had the same focus when it came to housework, my husband would be so thrilled! ;)


Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?

Usually on my laptop, though late at night, I've been known to write an entire scene longhand and then add it to the MS in the next day.


How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

I don't outline, in fact I'm not quite sure what an outline is. Ha, ha! I guess the best way to describe my technique is "scene building". I let one scene build onto the next and the best way for me to create those scenes is through research. It really opens up my mind, especially when I'm stuck. Research is my solution to writer's block--always seems to spark an idea. I always picture a story like a house, something you build brick by brick.


If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

Someone who doesn't talk a lot! ;) Seriously though, I'd love to work alongside Rick Riordan. I would think he does a lot of research for his novels and would love to see how he keeps it all organized, though I think he would be far from impressed in regards to my note taking, unless he's a major fan of random scribbled on paper scraps and old envelopes scattered about the house!


What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?

As writers, it's hard not to let noise from the outside world have an effect on your writing. Whether you are on the hunt for an agent or your first book has just released and you're worried about sales, you have to take a step back, breathe, and write. My agent and I had a long talk about this at one point and it's really helped me. At some point you have to realize you're doing this because you love writing and that love has to be your main focus.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

15 Days of Giveaways: Barrie Summy

This interview originally ran in November of 2011. Since then I So Don't Do Famous, the fourth installment in the series, has been published. Today's winner will win TWO books by Barrie Summy: I So Don't Do Spooky and I So Don't Do Makeup. Simply comment on today's post to be entered to win.

Congratulations, Dawn! You've won the I SO DON'T books! Please email me with your mailing address and I will send the books out to you.
 
Joining us this week for Creative Spaces is author Barrie Summy. Barrie is the author of a series of middle grade mysteries including I So Don't Do Mysteries, I So Don't Do Spooky, and the latest installment, I So Don't Do Makeup.

In I So Don't Do Mysteries, seventh-grader Sherry (short for Sherlock) is spending spring break in San Diego with her best friend when she is contacted by the ghost of her mom who was shot in the line of duty and needs Sherry's help in solving a case. Sherry juggles mystery sleuthing, tension with her best friend who thinks Sherry's lost it when she confides that she's been communicating with the ghost of her mother, and a serious crush on Josh the eighth-grade cutie. The story is peppered with lots of funny bits (like the ghost of her mother being summoned by coffee), and is a fun twisty-turny ride.

The second book in the series, I So Don't Do Spooky, was just released in paperback in October, and the fourth book in the series, I So Don't Do Famous, will be published next May.

To learn more about Barrie Summy and her books, visit her website and blog.


Describe your workspace.

My workspace changes depending on how close I am to a deadline and how far away I am from the end of the book!

This is my normal working space: a wide La-Z-y Boy in my living, a laptop, an end table and our dog, Dorothy. Dorothy sleeps in the chair, squished up next to me, whenever I’m writing.


This is my working space if a deadline is looming large, and I still have a bunch of words to go: a hotel!


Describe a typical workday.

Dorothy and I walk Child #4 to school. Once I get home, I make a cup of tea and my breakfast (if I didn’t eat with the kids), and write for the morning. I often write again at night when the house is dark and quiet.

List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

Dorothy: She is completely nonjudgmental about what I write.

My blue mug: It is not too big, so my tea doesn’t get cold quickly.

Pencils that don’t need sharpening.


Do you have any rituals in your work habits? If so, describe them.

Well, I tidy the kitchen and make myself a cup of tea. While the tea is steeping, I throw in a load of laundry. I like the background noise AND I like multi-tasking, so it’s win-win. Then I feed our veiled chameleons. By now my tea is at the perfect temperature, so I settle down to write.


This is our female veiled chameleon, Lotta, munching on a cricket. I tried to snap her actually catching the cricket with her tongue, but I just couldn’t get the timing.


What do you listen to while you work?

The sound of the washer, the dryer and maybe the dishwasher. I only listen to music if I need to write faster.

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

Ice water (with or without flavoring), tea, diet Coke with tons of ice.

What keeps you focused while you’re working?


Getting off the internet! Sometimes I resort to my ancient laptop, which doesn’t have internet access.



Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?


I write on a computer, but I do keep a running notebook per manuscript, where I jot down thoughts, things to fix, etc.

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

I outline. Big time. Which doesn’t mean I don’t stray from the outline, but I like to write with a roadmap.

I start off with a recipe box with dividers for the main sections of the book. Then I slot in note cards with scene ideas wherever I think they’ll fit in the story.


If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

Besides Dorothy? Hmmm…John Cusack, perhaps.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?

Plow through the first draft, no matter how horrible you think it is. Because you need something to revise, and you can’t revise a blank page.




Wednesday, February 6, 2013

15 Days of Giveaways: Elizabeth Schoonmaker

This interview originally ran in July of 2011. ABC Square Cat,  a follow up to Square Cat will be published in 2014. Leave a comment to be entered to win a copy of Square Cat!

Congratulations Mrs. Brown! You've won the copy of SQUARE CAT. Please email me with your mailing address and I'll send the book out to you.

 
Joining us today is author and illustrator Elizabeth Schoonmaker. She is sharing not one but two creative spaces with us. Her indoor space where she creates her illustrations and her outdoor space where she creates. . . well, you'll just have to scroll to the end of the interview to see. 

 Square Cat, her picture book debut, is in bookstores now:
"Eula is the only square cat in town. Everything that normal cats do is hard for her--she can't get her square paw into mouseholes, she can't wear her favorite circle skirt, and all of her friends are round! Eula is sad until her two best friends show her how well a square cat can fit into this round world."
Elizabeth got the idea for Eula one day after she finished a sketch of her cat Stanleigh, who is a round cat:


Soon after, Eula the Square Cat was born:


You can learn more about Elizabeth Schoonmaker here, and you can learn more about Eula the Square Cat on her website and blog.


Describe your workspace.

My workspace is on the second floor of my home, perched on a hillside in rural upstate New York. I work at an old oval table placed perfectly for natural light and continuous looking out of the window.


Describe a typical workday.

I like to draw and paint in the morning. I work from eight to eleven followed by a three-mile walk. I love my walks. They energize my mind and my body, and reward me with ideas and directions. After lunch I write, keeping in mind the images of the day. Then it is supper, a bit of relaxation, music, books, movies, and sleep. My work is always with me.



What media do you use and which is your favorite?

I work in pencil, oil, watercolors, graphite, pen and ink, gouache, and luma ink on a variety of surfaces. I love materials. Hand to utensil to medium to paper is a lovely experience.



List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

(1) My Table (covered with my cut marks, paint, and memories); (2) My plate of watercolors, which have become little castles nestled together on a plate like a faraway island; and (3) My many magnifiers. (They really help me see better!)


Do you have any rituals in your work habits? If so, describe them.

Keeping with my Dutch last name Schoonmaker, which means cleaner in Dutch, I do like a clean and organized work area. I always clean before I work.

What do you listen to while you work?

The hum of my refrigerator.

One of Elizabeth's oil paintings.


What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

Green tea with honey from the bees my family keeps.

What keeps you focused while you’re working?

The pure excitement and joy of experiencing all of the basic elements of paintings and drawing coming to life.


What aspect of illustrating do you find most challenging and why?

For me, making the dummy book is the easiest aspect of developing a picture book, but I find it very challenging to keep the spontaneity of the dummy book in the finished book.

Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?


I write longhand notes and compose on a computer.

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

I develop most all of my story lines on my walks.  I then sketch first and add the words later. 

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

I would eagerly invite George and Martha, magnificently created by the late James Marshall, to my studio. I am one of their lifelong fans.

What is the best piece of writing/illustrating advice you’ve heard or received?

“Write and illustrate what you know.”  Wise words of wisdom well received from my two darling daughters.



P.S. This is my outside creative space where I use nature’s finest willows and wild grapevines to make magical roadside attractions for all to enjoy.