Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Interview with Laura Vaccaro Seeger: Author of green

I met Laura through Facebook. I fell in love with green! I had to reach out to her for an interview. 

To my surprise, she said yes! I'm so thankful!! Laura is an amazing illustrator and writer combo. And she freely shares her thoughts on her process, and publishing in general.

Thank you Laura! You truly made my blog a better place to read.

Below are the questions I asked her:

 1.   You lived with your 2 grandmothers in Long Island, NY. How have they influenced your art and writing?

I was very close with my grandmothers. My mother's mother was a very quiet woman, but utterly adorable. 

My father's mother was a tremendous influence on me as I grew up. I was named after her, and we were very much alike - she cherished her independence and was a very determined person. She always taught me to be true to myself and pursue my dreams. 

She was really ahead of her time - she believed that if you worked hard and believed in yourself, there was nothing you couldn't accomplish.

2.   Why picture books for children?

Picture books are perfect for me because I am a writer and an artist, and I am fortunate that I can approach each book as if it's a blank canvas. This job is an artist's/writer's dream.

3.   Green is amazing, beautiful, and harmonizing. How did the idea of leaving openings in the pages, that become other objects as you turn the page, come about?

I knew I wanted to make a book about the environment, but I was extremely wary about making a didactic book. At some point during the process of creating GREEN, it occurred to me that the best way to encourage anybody to take care of our environment is to empower an appreciation of the world in which we all live. 

Once I began to explore the beauty in our world, I realized that everything is connected. That's when the idea of connecting each painting to the one before it and the one after evolved using die-cut holes.  

4.   What is the process you go through for one image, like the artwork in Green?

GREEN was really a very complicated book to create because each painting is a part of the one before it and the one after. 

What that means is that there was a great deal of painting and re-painting because as I'd begin work on a spread, I'd realize that something needed to be changed or adjusted on another spread. 

All that said, though, it was such a joy to approach each painting individually. I loved the opportunity to visualize each picture as if it were to be ultimately viewed on its own as well as part  of the book. 

5.   Where is the best place to get a cup of Joe/Tea in your town?

Hmm. The best place to get coffee - I'm not sure. There is, of course, the ubiquitous Starbucks here, and I am quite addicted to the coffee at the local 7/11, though my favorite place to get coffee is at the local deli and to sip it on my boat while writing or sketching.

6.   Do you belong to a critique group? If so, why? If no, why?

I do not belong to a critique group, though I do belong to a wonderful writers group which includes Eve Feldman, Douglas Florian, Bernard Waber, Johanna Hurwitz, David Adler, Mark Shulman, Susan Roth, Heather Maione, and many other fantastic writers and illustrators.

We don't critique one another's work, but we do discuss many other things related to bookmaking, publishing, etc. Long before I joined the group, I'm told, they used to critique each other's work, but for some reason they don't anymore. 

7.   What 3 words of advice would you give a newbie author/illustrator?

Revise, revise, and revise some more. 

8.   How did you meet your editor? And how hands on is he in the whole process from idea to print?

My editor, Neal Porter, has after fifteen books become a dear friend, so he is VERY hands on in the whole process. He often peruses my journals to see what our next book could be, and we'll work at the beach or on the boat or just hanging out in New York City. It's a very organic process and so much fun. 

We met in 1999 when I walked into his office with a gigantic box filled with one-of-a-kind handmade books - I'd created completely illustrated books not knowing anything about the business, so of course when he'd selected one to publish, it had to be completely redone!

9.   Your dog, Copper, was the inspiration for Dog and Bear…who else in your family has inspired a story or artwork, and why?

Well, my newest book, BULLY, was inspired by my older brother, Billy. 

Recently, we were planning a big birthday celebration for my mom and Billy insisted on having his way about each and every aspect of the planning. 

I was hanging out with Neal one day and I was telling him all about it - I told him that I've officially changed my brother's name from Billy to Bully - Neal said, "There's your next book!"

10.   How many other books have you had published, and are there any favorites?

I am just beginning work on my fifteenth book, but I really can't say that any are my favorites - they are all like children to me!

11.   What time do you get up and what do you eat for breakfast?

I usually wake up at about 7am, and I LOVE breakfast - I usually have a hollowed out bagel, over-easy eggs, and coffee.

12.   Where is your studio/writing desk? And is there anything on it or nearby that is a must have before you can start work? 

My studio is in my home and it is a wonderful space which includes a big teacher's desk where I answer emails and work on final manuscripts; a giant comfy chair for thinking, sketching, and writing; a couple of "restaurant booths" for meetings with my editor; an easel for painting; and lots of library card catalog files which house my many paints and art supplies. 

I don't have a special "must-have" in order to begin working, but it is important that my mind is first free of all the little tedious tasks that need to be done each day.

13.   Who is your biggest cheerleader?

My biggest cheerleader is my mom. And my husband and my kids, of course.

14.   Are there any teachers in your past that helped you realize your dream of creating your dreams?

Yes. My father.

15.   What are you working on right now?

I just completed DOG AND BEAR, TRICKS AND TREATS. I am just starting the next book and at the moment, I'm not really sure what it will become!

16.   What is your most favorite thing about being a children's book author/illustrator?

Ahh, this is a difficult question to answer because there are so many things I love about being an author/illustrator. 

To name a few, I get to work at the beach or on a boat any time, day or night. I get to write and paint which, though it can be hard and challenging at times, still doesn't feel like work to me. I get to meet so many people who love books, including other writers and illustrators, children, teachers, and librarians.

17.   How has being around water influenced your work?

Honestly, I often wonder if I could write anything at all if I were unable to be around water. There is something so freeing about being at the ocean, at the edge of the land. 

18.   Is there anything you would have done differently when you first started out? Like, "Boy, if I knew then what I know now…"

Actually, as it turns out, my ignorance about the publishing business was a blessing in disguise. I spent almost a decade as an animator/producer in the network television business, so when I'd decided to venture out into the world of publishing, I didn't realize that it was frowned upon to call a top editor on the phone and ask for a meeting. I was very lucky indeed that I was granted that meeting!

19.   How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?

Hmm. Buy my books, Tweet and blog about them, and, hopefully, enjoy them!

20.   Any big news?

Well, I'm excited to attend ALA in Chicago next month, and especially excited about the Newbery/Caldecott banquet where GREEN will officially receive its Caldecott honor. 

I'm also excited that a trip to China is in the planning stages for a speaking engagement. 

21.   What one word best describes you?


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