How did CWILL BC members get their first big breaks in the publishing world? In this series of interviews with local writers and illustrators, we ask what advice they would offer and what mistakes they would never repeat — an inside look at the publishing process, from the creators’ point of view. Please feel free to tell your own publishing tales in the comments section below.
What was your first book?
My first book was Ti-Pinge with Planète rebelle and author Joujou Turenne. I had been emailing sample images to many publishers and a year later was delighted to hear that the publisher Marie-Fleurette Beaudoin and editor Janou Gagnon had kept me on file, teaming me up with an author eventually. I don’t have an illustration agent so do all of my own solicitation through mass emailing. Someone had noticed!
Do you have a favourite publishing moment? A career highlight?
There is no better surprise than to see my published work by chance. This has happened to me twice. Once I was perusing the shelves of the children’s section in a large bookstore in Montréal when I noticed Ti-Pinge on a bookshelf. The other time, I had gone to an exhibition at Le Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal and discovered the Musée d’Orsay catalogue that I had illustrated. I realize how illustration is part of the everyday world. When I sell a piece of contemporary art, I may never see it again or even where or how it is displayed.
A touching moment for me is to see children entranced by reading or listening to an author read in libraries, schools and book fairs. They are such a great audience and it makes all the hard work seem worthwhile!
How did you handle early rejections?
Rejection is tough! One of my tricks to lessen the sting is to put those form letters in the printer for recycling.
That being said, one should always consider any advice from a publisher or editor. If you are lucky enough to get a personal note, it is usually sincere and meant to be helpful. Insiders in the publishing industry rarely have the time to give advice so it is probably a valuable secret they are passing along.
What advice would you give an emerging writer/illustrator?
I really believe in joining groups like CWILL BC, CANSCAIP, CCBC and SODRAC. This is because these groups are filled with wonderful writers and illustrators full of passion and talent.
I enjoy the camaraderie when we get together for events and I benefit from the activities offered. Since I tend to work in seclusion, I need to balance that out with community.
Some of the benefits are professional as well. For instance, I applied to a mentorship program through my CANSCAIP membership in the hopes of improving my writing and illustrating skills with Creator-in-Residence Dianna Bonder and Kathy Stinson.
The other advice I have is to enjoy the entire process of creativity by challenging one’s media, style, and trying on as many caps as possible, such as, writing. Trying to understand the entire process of producing a children’s book is a fascinating endeavour.
What project are you most excited about now?
I write my own children’s stories with the goal of one day illustrating my own picture book. In the past, I concentrated on observational drawing using watercolour and pastel. My visual art background was more conceptual than observational. I wish to throw digital in the mix.
I am a trained contemporary artist, but am a self-taught illustrator and so learn as I go. One thing that I have always done is studied a variety of illustration approaches by taking out children’s books from the library. I especially study storyboarding techniques and the particulars of their chosen media. What can watercolour or collage or digital do that no other media can do?
By developing new approaches, I explore how to tell a story pictorially and hopefully expand my audience.