Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Blog Tour... Tag, I'm it!

Nina Crews tagged me in a Writing Process Blog Tour–– Thank you, Nina! A fellow Brooklynite and children's book maker, Nina has a keen eye for multicultural city living. I really resonate with her themes and am honored to follow her on this tour.

As the task to answer four simple questions loomed, it dawned on me that I may very well be the Lamest. Blogger. Ever. 

Blogging is time-consuming! It's so much easier to promote by instant gratification–– a quick pic on Instagram here, a post on Facebook there.

But, it's also good to spend the time putting more thought into what I put online. Especially when talking about this Thing We Do; Writing and illustrating children's books. After all, to make a book can take about a zillion years. In the scheme of things, what's a few days putting together a blog post?

What am I working on?

For the past few years I've been collaborating on two books with my husband, author/illustrator, Sean Qualls

Our first book, The Case for Loving (Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic), debuts this January. I wrote (and Sean & I illustrated together) the love story of Mildred & Richard LOVING. Could they have a more perfect last name? The Lovings were an interracial couple living in Virginia in the 1950's who were arrested for... being married. How crazy is that? After years of battling the system, they took their case to the Supreme Court and won the right to live happily (& legally!) ever after.

Mildred & Richard Loving (photo by Grey Villet)
Currently we are working on a book called, Two Friends (also with Scholastic), about the little known friendship between Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglas. 

sketch from Two Friends (Scholastic)
It's been a really interesting journey working with Sean. I definitely feel my work is growing. Sean uses a lot more texture when he paints, which makes the work so lush and rich. I've been integrating more texture myself, having fun with sand paper and using even more collage and lettering in new and different ways.

sketch from Two Friends (Scholastic)
We've been pleased with the results of our collaborations so far. And happily (and most importantly!) we're still married! 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think what makes my work unique is perhaps the themes I'm drawn to (ie/ urban environments, cultural diversity), combined with the way I use mixed-media, collage and hand-lettering. This is a recent illustration I did for SCBWI's Bulletin.

Why do I write what I do?

To help broaden how young people think. If I can write a book about a family that celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas with joy, then maybe - just maybe - families who read my book will feel they have the permission to celebrate both holidays with joy too. I don't see why blending cultural traditions needs to be a source of tension, although it often is! I grew up thinking that it was somewhat 'taboo' to mix outside my cultural group, especially when thinking about marriage and starting a family of my own. While I definitely think there's something nice about maintaining a sense of tradition, my belief in bringing people together across cultural boundaries is perhaps even stronger. I refuse to be cynical about human nature and I try hard to maintain a sense of optimism which - naturally - permeates my work.

Daddy Christmas & Hanukkah Mama (Knopf)
How does my writing process work?

The hardest part is coming up with ideas. But once I have something I think is okay, I attempt to write. This can take a few days or many, many months (and many, many revisions!). Sometimes I do thumbnail sketches to help me visualize the character(s) as I'm writing. 

character sketches for a project I'm currently developing. (Her name is Maple.)

Next up is the CRAZY talented, relatively new on-the-scene, Abby Hanlon. 

Abby has a master's degree in childhood education from the City College of New York and a bachelor's from Barnard College. Abby has taught creative writing and first grade in the New York City public school system. Inspired by her students' storytelling and drawings, Abby began to write her own stories for children. Determined to illustrate her stories, Abby taught herself to draw after not having drawn since childhood. Her first book, Ralph Tells a Story, was published in 2012. The book is widely used by elementary school teachers who follow the writing workshop curriculum.  Her subsequent book, Dory Fantasmagory, a chapter book for ages 6-8 comes out Oct. 9. Abby also lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and two children.

See more of Abby Hanlon's work here: Abby's website.

Abby - tag, you're it!

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