Yuyi Morales in Madison October 20th!

WI book festivalI’m very excited to get a chance to hear Yuyi Morales speak in Madison tomorrow evening as part of the Wisconsin Book Festival. I featured Yuyi’s studio on Tuesday Tours a year ago and it remains one of my favorite studio tours. Not surprisingly as Yuyi creates some of my favorite books. If you’re around Madison tomorrow, join me at the Marquee Theater at 7:30pm to get a look at the work of this Caldecott-honor winning author and illustrator.
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Kimberly Newton Fusco’s Studio Tour

caToday on Tuesday Tours I’m very excited to welcome Kimberly Newton Fusco, the author of three of my favorite books. My daughter and I’ve read The Wonder of Charlie Anne more than once, and we always tease each other with one of the reoccurring lines, “A proper lady…” If you haven’t read The Wonder of Charlie Anne, what are you waiting for? Head out to the bookstore or library and dive it. Kimberly’s other book Tending to Grace is a beautiful short and poetic read. It’s a book I could easily have finished in a day, but I wanted to savor it, so I forced myself to only read a chapter each night. Beholding Bee is one of my first encounters with magical realism and it definitely had me thinking long after the final page. Today Kim shares her writing spaces in her home in Rhode Island, where she tends to her family, her sheep, the cat, a new puppy, and her books, but not always in that order.

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unnamedTell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium. 
I am a fiction writer for young people and I feel unbelievably lucky that I get to do what I have wanted to do since the sixth-grade.

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
We built a new house ten years ago with an office in the front so that I could watch my children getting off the bus. But, I can write anywhere, and I do: outdoors in our sheep field, in a coffee shop, in one of several lawn chairs I have set up in the woods behind our house. When I’m outdoors, I use a journal. Indoors, I bring my laptop to a comfy couch in our living room—my favorite spot because I can make a big roaring fire in fall and winter. I know some people love writing retreats, but I can make my own retreats at home and I wonder, what could be better than this?
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Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start writing?
My alarm rings at 5:30 and after a cup of coffee I make breakfast and lunch for my husband and daughter (my other three children are in college or grad school or graduated from college and working).  I drive my daughter to school, take some quiet/spiritual time, run a couple of miles on my treadmill, care for our animals (two sheep, a cat, and a new puppy), and then begin writing. I write throughout the morning and often return to it in the afternoon after some exercise.

Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
Pictures of my children growing up cover my office. They remind me that love and family are truly the most important things and both are important themes in all my books.

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If you had the chance to live inside the world of one of your stories, which one would you pick and why?

I love them all, but I guess I would pick the novel I am working on now because I am so involved in the lives of my characters in Me and Gloaty Gus. In order to write a novel, I become my characters and walk around in their shoes.  It’s the only way I know how to write fiction.

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What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re writing? How do you deal with it?

Right now it’s our new golden retriever puppy, Harper. She is three months, and a handful.  We have her crate-trained so when she is in the crate, I write. There’s always a distraction when you work from home, though, and I think it’s a matter of coming up with creative solutions that work for everyone in the family.

If you had to pick a quote to hang above your desk for inspiration, what would it be?

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What other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
I am very inspired by the poet Jane Kenyon and the advice she gives me each day:
“Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours.”

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If you could relocate your studio for part of the year to another geographical location, where would it be?
Well, we had a particularly rough winter last year in New England, so as much as I love writing by a crackling fire with the snow coming down outside my window, too many days of this gets a little daunting, so perhaps someplace warmer, but I would miss my family so much that I would be back the next day.5

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
It is nice to have a spot, but I think it is even more important to be flexible and write wherever and whenever you can. I wrote my first novel, Tending to Grace, in bits when my children were napping or playing in the treehouse. A little time can go a long way if you are disciplined. I try and live by the advice: “People first.” Our children grow up much too quickly to always be looking for solitude.

What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
My new novel,  Me and Gloaty Gus, is under contract with both Knopf and Faber & Faber, London. Publication is planned for  2017. My website is http://kimberlynewtonfusco.com.

Thank you, Kim for sharing the lovely places you write. My daughter and I can’t wait to read Me and Gloaty Gus!

elizaJoin us on October 27th when uber talented illustrator and author Eliza Wheeler shows us her studio space in Los Angeles, California.

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Tui Sutherland’s Studio Tour

A - 1Today on Tuesday Tours we have Tui Sutherland otherwise known as Erin Hunter, Rob KiddHeather Williams, or Tamara Summers. Yes, Tui is the writer behind a number of bestselling series and books, some of which feature her real name, and some that feature a collective name or pen name. What fun having so many alter egos! But the name Tui is the most well known name in our household because it’s the one featured on one of my daughter’s favorite books Spirit Animals: Against the Tide. We’re anxiously awaiting this weekend because we’ll be meeting Tui in person at the Sheboygan Book Festival. trading cardsWe have our book packed, all ready to be signed. We also hope to get a Tui trading card. A great bonus at this book festival, where authors and illustrators are honored with their very own cards that attendees can collect—how great is that!

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A - 22Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
Hi, I’m Tui, and I like to write about dragons and griffins and secrets and explosions and falling in love and betrayal and telepathy and setting things on fire—sometimes all in the same book, but usually spread out over a series! Things to know about me:

* My name comes from a kind of bird (the tui!) which only lives in New Zealand.

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* I am a mom with two hilarious little boys (my bears) who are basically miniature whirlwinds of chaos and joy and havoc and Nutella.

* I was a two-day champion on Jeopardy! a few years ago, so at one point I totally knew all the presidents in order, but don’t test me on that! ☺

* My current ongoing series is the dragon fantasy Wings of Fire; I also wrote the Menagerie trilogy with my sister Kari, plus the fifth book in the Spirit Animals series, and about thirty other books so far.

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How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
We moved into this house about three and a half years ago, right before my younger son was born. My current study used to be a teeny tiny bedroom, but we took out the closet and now it’s a slightly less teeny tiny office. This is definitely where I write best—I love being in my own little space. Although I must admit I still haven’t properly organized it, even though we’ve been here three years! When I’m in here, I always feel like I should be writing instead of tidying or filing, so it’s usually a big mess, but I’ve been tackling a corner or shelf at a time for the last month and it’s starting to look more presentable now.☺

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If you had to pick a quote to hang above your desk for inspiration, what would it be?
I really should put up quotes—there are so many I love! There’s one from Jo Walton’s amazing book Among Others where the young narrator says: “When I grow up I would like to write something that someone could read sitting on a bench on a day that isn’t all that warm and they could sit reading it and totally forget where they were or what time it was so that they were more inside the book than inside their own head.” YES, exactly that, that’s what I want to write!

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Or I also love Madeleine L’Engle’s quote: “You have to write whichever book it is that wants to be written. And then, if it’s going to be too difficult for grown-ups, you write it for children.” Ha ha!  So great!

And then I recently came across a lovely one from Carl Sagan in Cosmos – I don’t know if it’s too long to include all of this, but it’s so beautiful and makes me so happy: “What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.” Happy sigh.

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But the only quote that’s actually visible from my desk is on a random magnet on my filing cabinet, and it’s a picture of Marcie from Peanuts, and it says: “Some of us think we look kind of cute with our glasses.” Which I guess says something about me, too! ☺

menageIf you could live inside the world of one of the books you’ve written, which one would you chose and why?
Hmmm…could I be a dragon?  Because if I was still little human me, I don’t think Pyrrhia would be a very safe place to live!☺ But if I were a dragon, maybe a RainWing or a SeaWing, it would be pretty cool to live there. As myself, though, I think I’d love to visit the world of the Menagerie (which is a secret zoo of mythical creatures) so I could meet the griffin cubs and Zoe’s pet woolly mammoth. Or if I knew I’d get a spirit animal (perhaps a red panda? or a slow loris?), it would be amazing to live in Erdas (the world of Spirit Animals)…maybe not while it’s in the middle of a big war, though!

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What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re writing? How do you deal with it?
My biggest distraction is the guilt I feel about being at my desk instead of with my children.  It’s kind of ever-present—no matter what I’m doing, I always feel like I’m either neglecting my writing or my kids. I don’t think I deal with it very well yet (they’re still little! it’s only been five years!).☺ I guess what I usually do is spend the month before a deadline holed up in my office doing nothing but writing, and spend the other seven or eight months of the year more focused on the kids. This is not an ideal solution, believe me. I hope one day I find some kind of better balance where I can stop worrying about it!

Evidence Tui's 3 year old was in her office :)

Evidence Tui’s 3 year old was in her office 🙂

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The other terrible distraction is, of course, the Internet, where there are so many brilliant authors saying smart things all the time. I could spend all day reading what Anne Ursu and Justina Ireland and Shannon Hale and Daniel Jose Older have to say about the world and books (and unfortunately some days I do!). The only way I’ve found to deal with this is to give myself time limits—OK, Tui, you can have ten minutes of the Internet and then it’s back to work!

A box decorated by children at a school visit

A box decorated by children at a school visit

What are the three best things about your writing space?
For me, I love that my writing space is at home—even though it’s sometimes distracting to be here, I really love being able to wear my pajamas while I write (that’s seriously the #1 thing—if I had to get dressed and wear shoes in order to write, my books would never get written!). Being at home also means I can easily go get tea if I need it and say hi to my kids when they get home from school or if they want to show me something they’ve made.

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The second thing I love is the framed Wings of Fire full cover art over my desk, which was a present from my sister and her husband—it helps so much to be able to look up at those dragons (and at the map of their world) for inspiration when I’m writing the new books.

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And the third thing is probably the little bed where my dog Sunshine sleeps while I’m writing . . . we’d both rather have her in my lap, but then it’s hard to type!  So she has her own cozy spot, and it’s really sweet and comforting to have her close by, especially when it’s the middle of the night and everyone else is sleeping. (That’s my writing time—I’m an extreme night owl, writing mostly between 11pm and 4am, which is another reason I can’t work anywhere but at home!)

A - 11What other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
Jo Walton, for sure; I love her writing so incredibly much—her dragon book Tooth and Claw is genius and her book Among Others might be my favorite of all time. She did an event at a nearby bookstore not long ago, and everything she said was so wise and thoughtful and brilliant that I was literally in tears by the end.

A - 6Rainbow Rowell is another author I adore; I would love for my books to be that funny and heartfelt at the same time. I saw Kwame Alexander speak a few months ago and he also made me cry, he’s so smart and generous and joyful and intentional.

In terms of artists, I recently bought prints by Aaron Becker, Grace Lin, and Peter Reynolds, all of whom are amazing, and I would like to get something by Joy Ang (the artist for the Wings of Fire covers), Kazu Kibuishi, and Ben Hatke as well. Oh, and I find Hayao Miyazaki’s movies very inspiring, too—I’d like my stories to have that feeling of beautiful sparky weirdness!

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What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
I loved Liz Garton Scanlon’s answer to this question—that often what people need even more than space is time. That’s so true! Although I have my own space, I still find it hard to write unless I’m bossy with myself about making time for it. I also think your space should have things you love in it, that make you happy. The photos on my desk of my kids and my dog when she was a puppy make me smile all the time, and my shelves of favorite books make me feel like I have my best friends close by. (My shelf of to-read books is also exciting but probably less helpful, since I keep looking at it and wishing I were reading instead of writing!)

All the stuff Tui shoved into the hallway in order to take these beautiful tidy-looking photos :)

All the stuff Tui shoved into the hallway in order to take these beautiful tidy-looking photos 🙂

winterWhat’s coming up for you now and where can we find out more?
I’m currently working on book nine of the Wings of Fire series—Book Seven: Winter Turning was released in June, and Book Eight: Escaping Peril comes out in January 2016 (and has an awesome cover!)! The third book in the Menagerie trilogy will be coming out in paperback in the next year.  And everything I’ve ever written is listed on my website: www.tuibooks.com.

Andrea, thanks so much for having me here!  I can’t wait to meet you and lots of wonderful Wisconsin readers at the Sheboygan Children’s Book Festival next week!  Yay!

Thank you, Tui! I love that you shared the stuff that got moved into the hall in order to get tidy-looking pictures. I can sure relate to that! Thanks for sharing your space and influences—I now have some new quotes to add to my cork board ☺. My family and I are excited to meet you this weekend at the Sheboygan Book Festival!

Charlie AnnJoin us on October 13th when we take a look inside one of my favorite novelists Kimberly Newton Fusco’s Rhode Island writing retreat.

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Stacy Tornio’s Studio Space

TAN-screenshot-cover-245x300Today on Tuesday Tours we have another wonderful author, who also happens to live in my beautiful home state of Wisconsin and who will also be attending the Sheboygan Book Festival with me and thirteen other authors and illustrators in early October. Stacy Tornio is the author and co-author (along with Ken Keffer) of a variety of books ranging from picture books to activity guides to keepsake journals. But what all her books have in common is that they each aim to connect children with nature. Stacy was the editor for Birds & Blooms Magazine before taking position working for weareteachers.com. She also volunteers with Master Gardens, teaching kids gardening skills.

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404055_4058561455758_1546710029_nTell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.

I’ve been a children’s writer for about 10 years now. I’ve always done it as a hobby while working full-time. But just recently, I left my full-time job of 10 years to work part-time. This is giving me more time for writing kids’ books, so I’m very excited. I focus a lot on children’s non-fiction and especially love creating material on gardening, nature, and the great outdoors.

 

FullSizeRender(2)DNsidebarcathysHow long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I’ve had my writing space for several years, but only recently did I really personalize it to make it fun. In the past, I’ve always done most of my writing on my laptop while sitting on the couch, in bed, etc. But now that I have this fun space, I actually find myself sitting at my desk and working.


Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
DNsidebarwlnMy day is pretty varied as to when I sit down and write. I’m working part-time as a senior editor for this wonderful website, weareteachers.com, so this keeps me busy. I’m also freelance writing for a few websites. But I always, always have writing to do for a book, and I try to do something every single day. This often means brainstorming or researching—there’s a lot of this in non-fiction writing. This is great because when I do sit down to write, I like to have everything gathered. This way, I can get in several hundred or even thousands of words at a time. I tend to do a lot of thinking about stories and subjects in the car, in the shower, etc. So I really am ready to go when I get in writing mode.

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Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?

My space is filled with inspiration from nature since this makes up so much of my writing in general. You’ll especially find lots of little bird trinkets in my space.

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If you had a couple hundred dollars to improve your space, what would you do?
I would buy some sort of cool fancy chair or beanbag where I could just sink in when I’m in the middle of cranking out those thousands of words!IMG_1288
What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re creating? How do you deal with it?

My two dogs, Payton and Daisy Mae. It’s kind of a good distraction, though, because I find that it’s good for me to take several breaks throughout the day.

If you had to pick a quote to hang above your desk for inspiration, what would it be?

I have these awesome marquee letters that hang above my desk. They spell out NATURE and light up! Also, here’s one of my favorite quotes by John Burroughs related to nature—
I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.
IMG_1142What other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
Kid President inspires me. He’s joyful, delightful, and always makes me smile. I love what he and his uncle have done with their videos and their message, and I adore the book he put out earlier this year.

DNsidebarKOABIf you could relocate your studio for part of the year to another geographical location, where would it be?
A place where I could see mountains and beach from the same window, so maybe the Pacific Northwest.

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Do it! Start with a single chair or an inspiring sign. You don’t have to do it all at once, but reward yourself for being a creative person and put it together little by little. A creative space doesn’t have to look like it came out of a magazine. It’s whatever you want it to be.

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What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
We have a brand new kids nature book coming out on October 1 called The Secret Lives of Animals. We are so, so, so excited for it, and we’re really hoping kids love it. Check out more about me at destinationnature.net.

Thank you, Stacy! I’m digging the sign you have up that says ‘Like a Boss’—I have one just like it hanging over my desk too 🙂 I’m excited to meet you in a few weeks and check out your new book!

Join us on October 6th when we visit author (of more than 30 books, including my daughter’s favorite Spirit Animals 5: Against the Tide) Tui Sutherland’s dragon-filled Boston studio.

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Liz Garton Scanlon’s Studio Tour

AllThe WorldI’m thrilled to have Liz Garton Scanlon share her Austin, TX bungalow with us on Tuesday Tours today! Liz is the author of one of my favorite picture books All the World (illustrated by Marla Frazee), as well as many other great stories that have entertained my family over the years. Each of her stories is full of authenticity—so true and touching that it pulls at the heartstrings and gets straight to the emotion of the story, such as my favorite phrase from All the World—“Babies passed from neck to knee”. With her new book A Great Good Summer, Liz joins forces with illustrator Marla Frazee once again, but in a very different way. This time instead of a picture book, Liz has released her debut middle-grade novel, and it’s been receiving great praise and reviews. She hasn’t forgotten about picture books though, as she’s also recently released In the Canyon (Illustrated by Ashley Wolff) about a young girl experiencing the Grand Canyon for the first time. To get a signed copy of any of Liz’s amazing books, visit her at the Sheboygan Book Festival, where she’ll be presenting along with me and thirteen other authors/illustrators October 9-11th.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I write poetry, picture books and novels on my laptop in my own little nook in Austin, Texas.

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your writing process?
My husband and I bought this tiny 40’s bungalow about 12 years ago and after a few years we were popping its seams. (When we moved in, we had little girls and they eventually got big.) So we added on a little space, including a kind of closet-ish room for me. Big enough for the old library table I use as my desk.

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Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start writing?
Do you mean besides coffee? 😉 I send my kids off to school and then I either walk or run with my dog before I get to work. That gets my blood flowing, and I often get ideas while I’m moving. Sometimes I remember them long enough to write them down.

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If you had to pick a quote to hang above your desk for inspiration, what would it be?
I DO have quotes above my desk — lots of them. One thing I read every day, because it’s right there, is William Stafford’s When I Met My Muse, in which the muse says, “When you allow me to live with you, every glance at the world around you will be a sort of salvation.” Here’s a link to the whole thing.
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Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?8unnamed
My space is full of talismans. I have baby pictures of my daughters that keep me grounded. There’s a drawing I did as a little girl at that stage where you don’t draw bodies — you just draw arms and legs coming straight out of a person’s head.
I like to think it keeps me child centered. And I’ve got a candle that looks like a rock. My editor Allyn Johnston sent it to me after we did All the World together with a note that said, “It all began with a rock” (because that’s the first word of that book). It’s my most tangible reminder that we can make something out of nothing, all of us, at any time, and that in so many ways it is simple…

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What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re writing? How do you deal with it?
Because I work at home, there is NEVER not laundry to be done or a floor that could use a good sweep. Sometimes I’m good at ignoring those things (ask my family) but other days I’m wild with distraction. That’s when I just have to pick up and go elsewhere. There’s a coffee place just 2 blocks away with a very good decaf latte. That’s the beauty of a laptop.

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If you could relocate your studio for part of the year to another geographical location, where would it be?
I actually already do spend about a month every summer at our family cottage on a lake in Wisconsin. I’m not always very good about working there, but I definitely re-charge there. And find inspiration there. And I think that as my kids get older, and as I do too, that I may use it as a work space more and more. Like, when water skiing becomes less important.

 

What other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
Oh, this morning I was in tears over a radio interview with architect Frank Gehry. Seriously. I’m inspired by brave, wild, imaginative people every day.
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What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
You can create a lot of amazing art — written or visual — at the kitchen table, at a coffeehouse, in your bedroom if you have to. To me, almost more important that claiming space is claiming time. Time that you demarcate and value. Put it on your calendar. Make it important and unmissable. And then sit down somewhere and do what you do.

InTheCanyonWhat’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
My newest books are the brand new picture book IN THE CANYON, which takes place in the Grand Canyon and is exquisitely illustrated by Ashley Wolff, and my first-ever middle grade novel, THE GREAT GOOD SUMMER, which takes place in a made-up Texas town, features a crooked preacher called Hallelujah Dave, and sends a couple of 12-year-olds on a Greyhound adventure! I’m working on my next middle grade now. Visit me at http://lizgartonscanlon.com and check out some really great activity guides (teacher-created) for each of my books at http://lizgartonscanlon.com/teachers-guides/.

Thank you, Liz! I can’t wait to sink into a Great Good Summer and I’m looking forward to seeing you at the Sheboygan Book Festival in a couple of weeks!

coverJoin us on September 22nd when we take a look inside author and naturalist Stacy Tornio‘s writing space.

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Marla Frazee’s Studio Tour

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GOD GOT A DOG written by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Marla Frazee

I’m beyond excited to have Marla Frazee visit Tuesday Tours today! I have been an admirer of Marla’s work since The Seven Silly Eaters (written by Mary Ann Hoberman) and Mrs. Biddlebox (written by Linda Smith)—one of my all time favorites. Through the years I’ve been incredibly impressed by Stars (written by Mary Lyn Ray) and two other all-time favorites of mine, All the World (written by Liz Garton Scanlon) and God Got a Dog (written by Cynthia Rylant). I’m not the only one enamored with Marla’s artwork, a number of her books are NYTimes Bestsellers, she’s a Golden Kite winner, and has taken home two Caldecott honors for All the World and A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever. I was fortunate to meet Marla at the SCBWI LA Conference this August and get my own signed copy of her newest book The Farmer and the Clown. Today she shares with us her cozy cottage in California where she creates her award-wining illustrations, as well as her in-house writing room where she works on penning new and fabulous stories.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I’m a children’s book author and illustrator. It’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid and I feel very lucky that I’ve spent most of my working life doing it. It did take me a long time to get published, however. During those somewhat frustrating years, I worked in commercial illustration. Most of the projects I did even then were directed toward children (Disney, Mattel, Milton Bradley, lots of text book stuff), but my heart has always belonged to picture books—and now that’s pretty much my focus.

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How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
My studio was built by a guy named Tony during the last months of 2000. I did a couple of quick drawings of what I imagined, and he made it happen. I’ve been in it since January 2001. My three (now grown) sons were born and raised in the house I still live in and for a long time all three of them shared a room with a triple bunk bed. At that time my studio was one of the three bedrooms inside the house. That was great when they were little, but it was terrible when they were approaching the teen years.

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GOD GOT A DOG written by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Marla Frazee

Making the decision to build a separate studio, especially at a time in our family’s life when money was extremely tight, was one of the hardest things I had to come to terms with—as a mom. There was just no precedent for it in my whole extended Lebanese family. It felt selfish. And yet, I knew deep down that it was the right decision. Not only for me, but for my sons. They saw firsthand how much I loved it, how productive I could be in it, how passionate I was about my work, and how building a life around creativity was possible. Now that they are all out of in the world living their own highly creative lives, I recently turned the bedroom that used to be my studio into a writing room. So I draw and paint in my outside studio. And I write inside. I really love moving back and forth between the two spaces.
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If you could live inside the world of one of the picture books you’ve illustrated, which one would it be and why?
Oh, All the World. When I received Liz Garton Scanlon’s evocative text, I was worried about illustrating a book about “all the world”—how is that even possible? Instead I thought about the times when I have felt that I was very much a part of the world—and it’s always been when I’m either with people I love, in a place I love, or both. So I set the book in one of my favorite places in the world, the central coast of California. And I populated it with characters who clearly are connected to each other in a variety of ways. I would be happy to live in that book. Maybe in that house by the pier.

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The house on the pier from ALL THE WORLD

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STARS written by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Marla Frazee

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Letter from Charlie Higgins

If you had to pick a quote to hang above your desk for inspiration, what would it be?
I have a letter from a kid named Charlie Higgins taped up right behind my drawing table. To me, Charlie represents the picture book reader I am trying to reach. The child who is perhaps still struggling to read and write words, who is full of gratitude for the books they love, and most importantly, is a master at reading pictures and will happily study the pictures for story, for meaning, for details. Sometimes in the middle of puzzling out something, I will think about Charlie Higgins and all the kids like him and ask myself if Charlie would like what I’m doing. Would he laugh? Find it fascinating? Or, god forbid, would it bore him? He is my touchstone, even though I never met him.

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THE FARMER AND THE CLOWN by Marla Frazee

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Ceramic sculpture by Marla’s friend Elaine Carhartt

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THE BOSS BABY by Marla Frazee

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Just do it. Don’t feel guilty for wanting it. Make it yours. Claim it. (Especially if you are a mom.)

Marla Frazee

Illustrating IS MOMMY? written by Victoria Chang

Is Mommy

What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
My fall book is called Is Mommy? It is written by Victoria Chang, an accomplished adult poet. I did the illustrations in tempera paint on manila paper. It’s a primal, joyful, funny take on the very honest feelings kids sometimes have about their mommies.

Thank you, Marla—your studio cottage is adorable! I’m so glad I had the chance to meet you in person this past August, and I’m looking forward to getting my copy of Is Mommy? when it comes out!

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Join us next week when Liz Garton Scanlon (author of Caldecott-wining book All the World) shares her writing space in Austin, Texas.

If you’d like to get monthly updates on Tuesday Tour guests, please subscribe to my mailing list.

Charles Santoso’s Studio Tour

I’m excited to have Charles Santoso sharing his studio in Sydney, Australia today on Tuesday Tours. A couple of months ago I discovered my newest favorite book I Don’t Like Koala by Sean Ferrell and illustrated by Charles Santoso and I knew if I loved the book as much as I did, I’d love a look inside the creative space where the images were created. I Don’t Like Koala is one of those beautifully illustrated books that points at a classic while remaining fresh and original. It’s also a great example of a picture book that allows children the space within the images to connect the dots, as well as witness a secondary visual storyline in addition to the text. To me, this book is a clever and child-appropriate take on horror–it has just the perfect dose of creepiness without being scary. My four year old has requested it repeatedly over the last month and I’m happy to oblige as even after the 100th read, I’m still chuckling at the ending. In addition to illustrating I Don’t Like Koala, Charles has also illustrated picture books Spy Guy: The Not-So-Secret Agent written by Jessica Young and Peanut Butter & Brains written by Joe McGee. He also works as a concept artist and art director and is credited on feature films like The Lego Movie, Walking With Dinosaurs 3D, and The Legends of the Guardians.

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charless_profile_photoTell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
Hello! I’m Charles and I’m an image maker that creates illustrations for picture books & novels. I also work as a visual development artist at an animation studio in Sydney, Australia. My working tools include pencils (my favorite), pens, watercolors, and acrylics for traditional medium. I use Photoshop for my digital work.

 


charless_work_04How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I currently live in a two bedroom apartment and I use one of the room as my home studio. I’ve lived here for about four years now. It’s not big but I love it. I try to put things that inspired me in my working space. Things like books, artist’ artwork, and interesting objects work great. My aim is to have a mini library-gallery-studio type of space.

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Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
Most of my weekdays I work in the animation studio for about nine hours and then continue my 2nd shift home to do my book and personal projects. When I have a full day to do my book projects home, I start around 9am and have an hour break around midday and continue until my brain or hand tell me to stop. Between breaks is when I usually try to doodle some ideas for personal projects (very important). As for rituals, not so much. I think about stories and art non-stop, so my mind and hand can jump into creating mode in a short period of time.

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When was a time you had the most fun working in your studio?
I have fun most of the days working in my home studio. The best time is when everything flows as what is intended—when ideas, stories, and pictures dance in harmony. Unfortunately this best scenario rarely just happens, and I usually wrestle with these elements a lot before decent things starting to arise. I enjoy the whole process though.

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Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
It’s hard to choose one or two special ones. Letters and drawings from children are greatly inspiring. They make me really happy! I also collect and display original artwork from artists that I admire. Some of whom I can call friends, which is amazing and very humbling.

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What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re creating? How do you deal with it?
Working from home can be a little bit tricky in the beginning as the boundary between home and work space is a bit blurry. There were many times when my procrastinating brain asked me to do home chores or to have a quick nap (which can turned into a long nap in the end) instead of work. To deal with this, I forced myself to work on daily schedule, similar to the daily session at my animation studio work. I have to-do list everyday which ‘guide’ me to get through the day.

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What’s the most useful tool in your studio?
My pencils and Wacom Cintiq (Graphic Tablet).

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Which other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
Oh, it’s impossible to mention just two or three names for this! I keep getting inspired by lots of different people every day and this keeps changing too. I was reading a book by Quentin Blake the other day and got really inspired. Watched documentaries on Studio Ghibli, Saul Leiter (one of my favorite photographer), Maurice Sendak and Road Dahl make me really happy. Wes Anderson films spark ideas in my mind. charless_space_06
Listening to Iain McCaig’s latest interview gave a huge boost to my motivation. Norman Rockwell, Bill Watterson, Frédéric Back and Yuri Norstein work give me never ending supply of stories and joy. The list is going on and on and on. And most importantly, I get inspired by unique stories from different people that I’ve met. A few months ago, my wife and I had a random conversation with an 83 years old writer/editor in a casual restaurant in Tokyo, and I’m still super inspired by this chat session even today.

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Does music influence your work? What are you listening to now?
Yes! The right music for the right kind of work will give added values to the process of creating my work. I do like quiet moment without music in my initial idea generation process. At this preliminary stage where I need to fully concentrate and try to find a unique solution to a particular project, I find music can be an extra distraction as they have embedded creative values in them. As I move along to the next step (finishing stage), I usually choose music that suits the project—happy music for happy themed projects, sad music for a more emotional themed project, etc. The music that I like ranges from jazz and ambience to film soundtracks. Occasionally pop, classical, and rock can be fun too.

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What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
I personally find that having things that I like around my working space can greatly boost my productivity and happiness level. Books, interesting objects, and pin-boards with images are critical to keep me inspired. I cycle and mixed them up every now and then. I also sometimes try to put something that’s out of my usual taste too. Doing this has helped me cultivate my personal taste and more importantly, helped me to get to know myself more.

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What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
A few of picture books that I illustrated were out recently (2015). These include I don’t Like Koala (Simon & Schuster), Spy Guy: The Not-So-Secret Agent (HMH), and Peanut Butter & Brains (Abrams). They are all different from one another and I had a really fun time working on them. I just finished a picture book called Ida, Always (written by the lovely Caron Levis) due to be released in Feb 2016 by Simon & Schuster, and I’m also currently finishing The Snurtch by the same writer as I don’t Like Koala book, Sean Ferrell! You can find updates and my personal work on my website and on tumblr.

Thank you, Charles. Ida, Always looks amazing and I can’t wait to see the next collaboration between you and Sean Ferrell!

Please join us next week when we visit the California cottage studio of one of my all-time favorite illustrators Marla Frazee.

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