Welcome to my new monthly interview feature! As an Illustrator, especially one who is a longtime member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, I am blessed to have a large circle of wildly talented friends, who are fellow artists, writers and designers. And I’m so excited to be interviewing them and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month.
This month I am visiting with the colorful, chic Illustrator & Graphic Designer, Mary Peterson. Mary and I meet thru our fellow illustrator friends in the SCBWI and struck up a friendship rooted in a shared love of design. I simply can’t resist Mary’s knack for clean lines, sophisticated shapes and delightful palettes!
Today we will be chatting about Mary's fabulous, brand new picture book, Wooby & Peep. (You can buy it here!) She was born and raised in Iowa on a small farm surrounded by cornfields and lots of animals. She is also the co-author and illustrator of Piggies in the Pumpkin Patch, which was featured in the 2010 Society of Illustrators Original Art Show. You can visit more of Mary’s lovely artwork here!
|Mary's latest book, Wooby & Peep!|
Q: How has the graphic novel trends of recent times influenced the creation of Wooby & Peep?
A: Originally, Wooby & Peep was written by Cynthea Liu as a beginning reader series. The stories were loaded with physical interaction between the characters. So much of the fun was the slapstick humor in Wooby and Peep's relationship. The traditional beginning reader format was not flexible enough to show all the crazy action that supported the text so I started to experiment with a graphic novel format. It worked beautifully. So really, the decision was a matter of form following function. I'm grateful to recent trends in publishing for this option—even though the book evolved into a more traditional format, the time spent getting to know the characters and the world they live in, so intimately, and in such detail, has been valuable time spent.
|Mary's picture book, Piggies in the Pumpkin Patch.|
Q: Tell us about the developmental journey of Wooby & Peep from its origins as your original dummy book to the final published picture book.
A: Wooby & Peep's road to publication was a journey indeed! A four year long journey from a graphic novel format beginning reader to a picture book with a sprinkling of comic book panels.
In the beginning, after we settled on the graphic novel format, Cynthea and I worked closely to develop the original dummy. Her dialog inspired my images that inspired dialog that inspired images…It was really playtime for me. Then came the submission process…and the rejections. But what kept us going was how excellent those rejections were! With each good rejection came wonderful feedback—feedback we took to heart and incorporated into the next dummy submission. And, for me, the time spent building a world for these two quirky characters was bonding. I fell in love with them. I drew them everywhere I went. I drew them in chalk on my driveway for my granddaughter Petra. I drew them in the sand on Bondi Beach in Syndey, Australia. I drew them using pebbles on a picnic table in Iowa. Wooby and Peep had become my good friends.
And so the submission process went, revise, submit, repeat, until one day, Wooby & Peep landed on the desk of Cindy Loh, then Editorial Director at Sterling Publishing. She loved Wooby & Peep as much as Cynthea and I, and our intrepid agent Jen Rofé, so she said, "Yes! Let's do it."
Every good story ends with a twist though, right? And Cindy had one for us…two actually. Big twists. Two REALLY big twists. 1) Howzabout making Wooby & Peep a picture book? and 2) So, Cynthea, howzabout you write an origin story for your characters? We all truly, truly, truly want to know how they became friends. Much thanks and appreciation goes to Cindy Loh for her vision and awesome editorial skills. She's amazing!
|Spread from the hilarious book, Wooby & Peep.|
Q: What was different about the experience of creating Wooby & Peep as compared to your other published books?
A: Up until Wooby & Peep, my experience creating picture books has been the industry standard—working closely with editors and art directors to craft the best book possible, but never with author involvement. Working so closely with Cynthea was new and tremendous fun! Her jokes make me look very clever!
|This spread from Piggies in the Pumpkin Patch was selected|
for the Society of Illustrators Original Art Show 2010.
Q: What are your top 3 favorite books for children?
A: Wow! Hard question! As a child my favorite book character was Madeline. She was so brave. I loved that. Another book from my childhood that I still love beyond reason is Blueberries for Sal. And for the pure fun and silliness of it, Good Night Gorilla.
|Two of Mary's lovely letterpress prints.|
Q: What are you working on now? What can we expect to see in the future?
A: A several years ago I started taking letterpress classes at The Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena. I work from home as a freelance graphic designer and it was a way of getting out of the house while still being creative. I'm a bit of an art class junkie. Letterpress was truly magical, though. It satisfied every aspect of my creative self. I'm not a good painter. I like to draw, but I'm not a great drawer either. But I am good at arranging things and I thoroughly enjoy the mechanical process of printing. Two years ago I bought two small letterpresses and continue to collect type and improve my linoleum block cutting/printing skills. So, to answer your question, what I'm working on now are several dummies and story concepts that give me the opportunity to explore the narrative qualities of letterpress printing. Words + pictures + design. (Shop Mary’s gorgeous letterpress prints here!)
Thanks for having me Jane!