Well, hello. It's nice to meet you. Of course,
I'd be HAPPY to answer some of your questions.
Did you always want to be an illustrator?
I loved to draw from the time I was a little girl… and it's
been a very long time since then! As a young girl, it was a
treat to go to my dad's office (he had an advertising business)
which was stocked with "real-honest-to-goodness-professional" artists tools such as squeaky markers and huge paper tablets. How I loved the smell of those markers! In high school I took as many art classes as possible and eventually earned an Associate of Arts degree in visual communications at the Art Institute of Colorado in Denver. I can't imagine another career I'd enjoy more –other than riding horses!
Where did you work before you began creating children's books?
I started out as a graphic designer in 1982 doing keyline and paste-up. Those were the dinosaur days when we didn't have computers. We did everything by hand on drawing boards, laying out the art by hand. I worked for various design studios around Chicago and Colorado Springs before really getting interested in illustration. I worked for a very nice man named Tom Cain (my future father-in-law) who had a package design studio. He encouraged me to hone my illustration skills when I wasn't busy. I eventually became a full-time illustrator for a design studio in Chicago doing artwork for corporate campaigns and consumer packaging, to branding and communication design for Fortune 500 companies. I worked with many different techniques, including pen and ink, gouache (sounds like "gwash"), acrylics, airbrush, colored pencil, scratchboard and computer illustration.
How did you get the idea for a children's book?
I stopped working full-time when I had my first daughter, Emily. I attempted to do free-lance illustration during Emily's naps but those times were inconsistent and short, making meeting deadlines challenging. If "baby" Emily only slept the way the "teenage" Emily sleeps, I would have had it made! Eventually I decided it was time to retire the paint brushes and raise my girl. Then along came my second daughter, Isabella, and I enjoyed spending everyday with my girls—painting, doing sidewalk chalk, drawing letters on the bathtub wall. I wanted to teach them words for their emotions and couldn't find any good books for young children dealing with that topic. Then I had a brainstorm! "Hey, I'm an illustrator! I'll create my own book about feelings!" And so the idea for The Way I Feel was born.
How did your children influence the book?
My girls were instrumental in creating The Way I Feel. I thought of times when they were feeling certain ways and how they act, and I used those experiences for my book ideas. For example, Isabella used to call for me in the night whenever there was a lightning storm, or hide shyly behind me when she met new people. Emily was different. She used to hang upside-down on the monkey bars while making her "fish lips" face. I chose that behavior for the cover of the book. The girls even posed for the illustrations. They were very proud to be part of my book.
How long did it take you to create The Way I Feel?
YEARS, literally. It took me about a year to do the illustrations since I only had time to sneak into my studio when my daughters were napping or when their dad took them out for donuts on Saturday mornings. Finding time to draw was the most challenging part about creating the book. I chose pastels for The Way I Feel because I needed to be able to stop at any point. With two young girls to care for, cleaning paint brushes was impossible. It then took about another 6 months to find a publisher and another 6 months to receive my first printed edition of The Way I Feel.
How did you find a publisher?
Now that's a very popular question and one EVERYBODY wants to know the answer to! All you have to do is go to my home page and click on "How to get published." All the juicy details are a just couple clicks away.
What inspired you to write Roonie B. Moonie— Lost and Alone?
Some time ago, I read about a Cub Scout who became separated from his troop while hiking in the mountains. This boy was told by his father never to talk to strangers. After spotting some horseback riders he hid instead of asking for help. As a result, he wasn't rescued immediately and spent four cold days and nights alone and terrified in the rugged wilderness. Fortunately, this story had a happy ending as the boy was eventually found alive and brought to safety. When asked why he hid from the horseback riders who could have helped him he said he was afraid they might "steal him." This Cub Scout's reaction to strangers is probably more typical than we think; it's common to teach children not to talk to strangers when, in fact, there are times kids need to ask for help.
I've always enjoyed reading books to my daughters that not only provide an entertaining story but also offer a learning opportunity. Teaching children about their internal "warning systems"—how to use those skills to their benefit— can help protect them if lost or in danger, and may have resulted in an earlier rescue of the Cub Scout.
Since my studio overlooks my beautiful garden, I wanted to do a book with lots of colorful, stylized flowers and foliage. That's why I decided to make Roonie a bee as opposed to a wombat, naked mole rat or meercat (though they are each lovely animals in their own right).
Tell me about your family.
I am married to a very patient, funny man named John. We have two daughters, Emily and Isabella, who are much older now then when I created The Way I Feel (and they certainly sleep a lot more). Since John never got his son, we bought him a male cocker spaniel named Oliver. He's the best 'son' in the world because he sleeps A LOT. We also have two horses, Lexie and Finn, and three hermit crabs.
What are your hobbies?
Well, I call my horses my favorite hobby, but John and the girls call them my "obsession". I think that's a rather harsh term, don't you? I LOVE to ride and read about riding and talk about horses and smell horses and groom horses and take riding lessons and watch horse movies and go to horse shows and dream about horses… Yeah, I guess that's my favorite hobby. I also like to garden and hang out with my family. Oh, and I like to eat ice cream but that's not a hobby.
Thanks for listening!
PS. My name sort of rhymes with "Japan."