Where did you grow up?
What is your earliest memory of writing/drawing?
I don’t have a specific memory, but my dad took a black and white photo of me drawing. I’d guess I’m not yet 3 yrs old in the photo!
What inspired you to write/illustrate your first book?
I had always wanted to illustrate children’s books and in 1999 I found something to write about. I daily passed a lonely, dirty dog in my neighborhood that broke my heart and around the same time my mom had died, leaving my father with a broken heart. The nexus of these two real-life stories was the beginning of my picture book Lucky Boy. My little terrier, Frida, was my model for the drawings.
Do you use your childhood as inspiration?
Parts and pieces of it. I have a terrible memory, but because I’ve always been so visually clued-in to my surroundings, I carry around what amounts to a gallery of moments in my head. More like felt memory. For the facts of what really happened I rely on my younger sister, Rebecca, who has all the names and dates.
What books from your childhood have most influenced your work? What about adult titles?
My mom read to us from the Child Craft books, which were compilations of many authors’ and illustrators’ works. I loved The Boxcar Children, the illustrations of Garth Williams, and Dr. Seuss, of course. I was too old for most of Maurice Sendak, but he’s a hero. Now that I am an adult, though still interested in children’s books…anything illustrated by David Small (he’s my absolute favorite!); Calef Brown’s books of illustrated poetry; Alexis Deacons’s books; Ana Juan’s illustrations for the picture book Frida; The Philharmonic Gets Dressed, by Karla Kuskin, illustrated by Marc Simont (brilliant!); Peter McCarty’s tender and wistful illustrations; and a new favorite—A Visitor for Bear, by Bonny Becker.
As far as adult titles go, anything by Alice Munro; Music for Torching, by A.M. Homes; Birds of America, by Lorrie Moore; The Hours, by Michael Cunningham; The Corrections, by Jonathon Franzen; Straight Man (and other novels), by Richard Russo; anything by Richard Ford, Thomas McGuane, Jane Kenyon, Donald Hall, Tim O’Brien, Reynolds Price, Margaret Atwood, Cormac MCCarthy, Ken Kesey, Kurt Vonnegut, Anne Tyler, Raymond Carter, John Cheever…I could go on and on. And on.
What are your hobbies and interests besides reading and books?
Walking the dogs, riding my bike, dinner with friends, making things out of clay, printmaking, drawing, painting, listening to music.
Who are a couple of your favorite author/illustrators? What is it about their work that inspires and interests you?
My favorite illustrator is David Small. I love the absolute freedom he has with his line work, and his subtle, humorous caricatures. All the little details he squeezes into the backgrounds and his effortless architectural renderings…loose, but accurate. Calef Brown is the new Dr. Seuss, with his hysterical poetic abandon which translates to his illustrations as well…just plain silliness…and his color work is without compare. He is purely fearless. Maurice Sendak for his writing and illustrations. He is just so tender, yet has no qualms about wading into frightening terrain.
What one or two words of advice would you give for young authors/illustrators?
Oh, dear…I know it sounds lame, but just to do the thing that makes you happy. Have some faith in yourself and don’t think too hard about the thing you are trying to say, or depict. I think the work needs to come from that place/space you inhabited as a child—a place of wonder and trust.