This is the second of a two part interview with the amazing Author and Illustrator Iza Trapani.
If you haven’t read part one please read it here:
In this interesting interview Iza openly shares her creative process to give us a deeper insight into the making of a children’s book. Iza explains how she begins the process and then arrives at the final product. Enjoy!
Interview Cont’d with Iza Trapani:
Question: When creating the story for a new book, what comes to you first; the illustrations or the words?
Answer by Iza Trapani: The words come first but I think of the pictures as I am writing. I want to be sure the words suggest good imagery. I often do a little thumbnail storyboard as I write. It helps me plot and structure the story. Most picture books are 32 pages- the first 4 to 6 are the front matter (title pages, copyright and dedication.) With only 27 or 29 pages in which to tell the story, I want to be sure it moves forward from page to page.
Iza’s Illustration Process
Q: How do you begin creating the images for a new children’s book, do you use thumbnail sketches to begin with ?
A: Yes, lots and lots of sketches, some very quick, rough ones then more refined and detailed ones. I print out and paste the text and work my art around it and create a book dummy- or sometimes I just scan the art and send to my art director and editor. They make comments and suggestions, I make some more revisions and when all the black and white sketches are approved, I trace the sketches onto my watercolor paper and paint the finals.
The Other Side of an Illustrator
Q: Do you write and illustrate full time or do you have other jobs or hobbies/interests that you divide your time between and if so what are they?
A: I am fortunate to make my living as a writer and illustrator. Most of my time is spent in the studio writing and drawing/painting, but I also visit schools, libraries and bookstores and attend and present at conferences and book festivals. These days, authors are expected to do much more self promotion and to have a platform, so I spend a good deal of time on Facebook and Twitter and I have a blog and website to keep in touch with my readers. And then there is office work, pro bono work and donations, fan mail to respond to, etc.
In the remaining hours, I go for hikes with my mastiff, Jambo, give my husband, Rob, equal time, take Pilates classes and voice lessons, sing and sometimes perform a cappella harmonies with my friend Sarah, occasionally practice piano, read, play scrabble, do household chores, make hay when the sun shines (we live on a farm), ski and snowshoe when the snow falls, garden, cook….I’ll rest when I die!
The Illustration Industry
Q: Is there anything in particular that you have learned about being a children’s book illustrator that you would love to share with others; to help them if they are considering entering this industry?
A: Dreams can come true, but it’s important to be persistent, to work hard and to perfect your craft. To those wanting to break into the children’s book publishing world, read lots of picture books, study and learn from them. There is wealth of info on the internet, lots of kidlit writing and illustrating blogs. Follow them and learn from them, and be inspired. The most important thing is to keep writing and drawing, keep improving. Do it because you want to and have to, because it is your passion. It’s not easy to get published, especially these days, so make sure your work is highly polished before submitting.
I highly recommend joining the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators www.scbwi.org. Many people have made contacts with agents and editors through this organization and have become published. And here are some links to my blog posts related to writing and illustrating. Some include a list of reference books that are helpful:
Helpful Resources for Illustrators
- Read Picture Books if You Want to Write Them – www.izatrapani.com/read-picture-books
- So You want to write a Picture Book? – www.izatrapani.com/write-fiction
- So You Want to Illustrate a Picture Book? – www.izatrapani.com/illustrate-picture-book
- Rhythm and Pattern in a Picture Book – blog.janicehardy.com/iza-trapani-rhythm
- Plotting a Picture Book – www.izatrapani.com/plotting-picture-book
- Uneven Rhymes- You Gotta Get the Beat – www.izatrapani.com/uneven-rhymes
- Picture book revisions – www.izatrapani.com/picture-book-revisions
- Inspiration for budding Picture book illustrators – www.izatrapani.com/budding-illustrators-inspiration
Q: There are undoubtedly thousands of people all around the world dreaming of becoming a children’s book author, what qualities and/or characteristics do you think it takes to become one?
A: Tenacity, ability to deal with rejection, ability to compromise (in contracts, in text and art revisions), willingness to work hard, reliability, courtesy, patience. There are many challenges and pressures in this job, as in any other. Writing for children is not easy. It’s a competitive market and publishers are very choosy. I can’t stress enough how important it is to present your best work.
Less Isn’t Always More
Q: If you could do anything differently than you have done so far as a children’s book illustrator what would that be?
A: Work in a minimalist style! My detailed watercolor illustrations for a picture book take from four to eight months to create. Sometimes all the detail gets tedious. But I’m the kind of person who can’t make a salad without at least five ingredients. The concept of less is more is hard for me to grasp.
Favourite Illustrated Books & Authors
Q: Do you have a favourite book or several favourites?
A: Many favorites: Anything by Dr. Seuss- I especially love the Horton books and The Sneetches. Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad and James Marshall’s George and Martha are wonderful early readers. Wild About Books by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Marc Brown is terrific and Judy Schachner’s Skippyjon Jones books are fantastic. the list goes on…
Q: Are you inspired by other authors and illustrators and if so is there any in particular you wish to mention?
A: Yes, all those above. Additionally, I love the animal characters of Janet Stevens and Helen Munsinger. I also love the illustrations of Trina Schart Hyman, Holly Hobbie, and Denise Fleming. I love the poetry of Douglas Florian, Margaret Mahy and Rebecca Kai Dotlich…there are so many more.
Q: What else can you share with us about your life as a children’s book illustrator and author?
A: I am immensely happy to have fulfilled my dream, and to be making a living at what I love. I am so grateful to my family and friends and teachers who encouraged me from the start, and I am grateful for all the wonderful people I have worked with/continue to work with and for my readers – children and adults who have warmed my heart, early educators and librarians for whom I have great respect. Through social media, I am in touch with fellow writers and illustrators who inspire and encourage me.
Picture Book Awards
Q: Have you won any awards for your books?
A: Yes, The Itsy Bitsy Spider was an ABA pick of the Lists Book and was featured on the PBS TV show, Storytime. I’m a Little Teapot was featured at the White House Easter Egg Roll. My other titles have won the IRA/CBC Children’s Choices, the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Book awards and the Bank Street College of Education Best book awards. I also received the Rip Van Winkle award (presented by SLMSSENY- School Library Media Specialists of Southeastern NY) for my contribution to children’s literature. My stepson said it was awarded to “ the least sleepy person he knows.” 🙂
Q: Where can we buy your books and find out more about you as an artist and author?
A: My books are available through any bookstore and also online through Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, and other sites as well as through my publishers, Charlesbridge, Sky Pony Press and Scholastic Book Club.