Describe your new book/project/work.
Sweet Dreams Lullaby is my first self-authored picture book. It features a young bunny (inspired by my own pet bunny) being tucked into bed and invites sleepy toddlers to dream of comforting scenes from nature's bedtime. As the bunny snuggles in, the rest of the world readies for bed as well — eggs are wrapped in a nest, baby ducks take their baths, daddy frogs sing little ones to sleep, and "caterpillars in cocoons are tucked in tight beneath the moon." The rhyming text and soothing color palettes mimic the lyrical nature of lullabies and encourage children to think of happy thoughts and peaceful moments as they drift off to sleep.
What fictional character would you like to be your friend, and why?
I would very much like to be friends with Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (books by Betty MacDonald). She has always been one of my favorite characters because she reminds me of a more eccentric version of my own grandmother — playful, whimsical, silly, unconventional, friendly, good-natured, and always a child at heart.
What was your favorite story as a child?
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams was one of my favorites, and still is. What a beautiful message — I've always been especially fond of the conversation between the Rabbit and the Skin Horse concerning "What is REAL?"
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
It changed at different phases, but I mostly wanted to be a dolphin trainer at SeaWorld, a soap opera writer, an Olympic ice skater, and yes, even an artist. Today, if I weren't making books for kids, I'd like to be a marine biologist and study whales. But I'm pretty sure if I was a marine biologist studying whales, I'd dream about being an artist.
Why do you write books for kids?
I write and illustrate books for kids because it keeps alive the wonder of books that I experienced as a child. So many of my own childhood moments and memories find their way into my books, sometimes without me even realizing it until later. The process of taking the seed of an idea and letting it evolve into what it is meant to be is incredibly rewarding — making a book is truly a labor of love. After a lot of work and noodling, thoughts and words form into a story, doodles become pictures, and ultimately a book is born. It is surely a gift and a privilege for me to be able to inspire and influence kids through my books. The opportunity to write and illustrate children's books is something that I have always wanted, have worked hard to achieve, and am deeply thankful for.
What is your idea of bliss?
A perfectly toasted marshmallow, an ocean breeze in my hair and my toes in the sand, watching whales, sipping homemade chai tea on a chilly day, belly laughs, the sound and smell of rolling a brayer in printmaking ink, my own twinkling Christmas tree, a forest walk in crunchy autumn leaves, stargazing with a special someone.
What's your clean, kid-friendly curse word substitute of choice?
Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
A few of my favorite passages are from the movie How to Make an American Quilt (I'm not sure if they are in the original book also, or just the screenplay):
"Young lovers seek perfection. Old lovers learn the art of sewing shreds together and of seeing the beauty in the multiplicity of patches."
"You have to choose your combination carefully. The right choices will enhance your quilt. The wrong choices will dull the colors, hide their original beauty. There are no rules you can follow. You have to go by your instinct. And you have to be brave."
I like these quotes because they speak to both art and love, and those are two of the most important forces in my life.
What is your favorite family story?
One favorite family story happened when I was about three or four years old, when my mom and I lived with my grandma. My grandma had a condo that backed up to a golf course with a pond, which was a good home not just for us, but also for mallard ducks. There were a very special couple of ducks that we got to know well, which we named Henry and Henrietta. Every day they would come to the front door and quack, and we'd come out to feed them some bread. But one day, they quit coming. Several weeks later, they returned, quacking a little louder this time. When we opened the door to greet them, we saw not only Henry and Henrietta, but an entire long line of baby ducks — they had brought their new family back to meet us! I was sitting on the stoop feeding the ducks, but when one of the ducklings bit my finger, I ran inside crying, leaving the bag of bread on the stoop. When tears were dried and my mom, grandma, and I went back out to check on the ducks, they were long gone, but the entire bag of bread had been eaten!
What is your earliest memory of making art?
One of the best things about kids making art is that they know exactly what they are drawing or painting, even if it makes no visual sense to adults. They know it is a cow, or a dinosaur making pancakes, or a spider weaving a rainbow. One of the earliest pieces of art my mom remembers me making is a marker doodle I did on an old scrap of cardboard when I was very young. When I look at it now, I don't recognize it — it just looks like a big orange blob with a mess of colors all around. But as a child, when my mom asked me what it was a picture of, I guess I told her matter-of-factly, "It's an invisible lady with one orange leg." I love that I have a story about a piece of artwork I did as a kid because it shows I always had an artist within and also reminds me of the unfiltered creativity of all kids and the unique way they interpret the world. It's good to go back to that sometimes.
Who are some of your favorite authors and/or illustrators?
I'm sure I'm forgetting some, but off the top of my head: Leo Lionni, Eric Carle, Harriet Ziefert, Mark Boutavant, Shel Silverstein, Rebecca Doughty, Lauren Child, J. Otto Seibold, and Charlie