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


Monday, March 24, 2014

Interview with Roxie Munro: Award Winning Author and Artist



I met Roxie Munro on Facebook in one of the fun writer's groups I belong to. I checked out her books and then of course asked her for an interview. Luckily for me, she said yes! 

Roxie is a busy writer and artist. And she's even got an app out, which was chosen for one of School Library's Journal's top ten apps of 2013. Way to go Roxie! 

Roxie's got more than 35 books under her belt and that amazing list is growing every year. And in her spare time…ah-hum- she creates pieces of artwork in various medium which are displayed in museums and galleries across the US.

Yes, Roxie is a creative rock star. Below are the questions I asked her. I hope her answers will help you along your way to reaching your artistic goals. 

Dream Big! Roxie does and the world benefits from it. 



You have more than 35 books for children under your belt. Where do your ideas come from?

First book idea: Sold my first New Yorker cover, moved to New York City, and spent months exploring. Looking for freelance work, I met with a children’s book editor, who suggested I come up with an idea. 

A week later, I woke up at 7AM and before my eyes opened, I saw in red letters the words: “The Inside-Outside Book of New York City.” I called her, and said, “I have a weird title for a book.” It won the New York Times Best Illustrated Award and was a TIME magazine Best Children’s Book. Eventually, did a series of seven Inside-Outside books.

One day years later, on a school visit, a 4th grade boy asked me about the Flatiron building in that book. I started to talk about the full-page image. “No,” he said, “I mean the other Flatiron Building.” I realized he meant the tiny one in the gutter of the title pages – the whole southern half of Manhattan is depicted. I have never forgotten that – how children see the details. I mentioned his comment to the librarian, and she said, given my love of detail and pattern, I should do a Where’s Waldo. But, I didn’t have an idea…


A few years ago I started thinking about how a book based upon a maze could work. Didn’t want it to be schematic or cartoon-like, but more real, illustrative – each detail different, not a formula. Have now had five real life maze books published. Besides solving the maze, there are other game elements – counting, naming, finding, ABCs, hidden objects.

Then, I had an idea called Doors, developing out of the Inside-Outside books.  One day, my editor suggested something more interactive. I created a tiny 2”x3” dummy - a lift-the-flap idea. After that, I published three more paper-engineered books.

So, creation develops in a sort of logical way out of previous work; none of these would come into being without the earlier books. 

Creativity evolves this way…. you go through the processes, graduate into ideas. It doesn’t always come on demand – often ideas happen and problems are solved after you have been thinking about or playing with concepts for some time. They don’t just pop into your mind without being nurtured along the way. It is the culmination, a pulling together, of other ideas explored in one’s work… a progression, building upon the ones that have gone before. 

The aha!, the idea, is almost an end, as well as a beginning.


Explain your art work or voice in 5 words: 

Nonfiction, conceptual, interactive…


How long does it take you to write and/or illustrate a book? 

Between six months and a year.




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

Up around 6:30-7AM. No breakfast; early lunch around 11AM.


Who are you reading right now? 

Some Scandinavian mysteries.


What is the funniest/cutest thing a child has asked you about your books?

On a school visit once, after the program, we had a Q&A. Later, as I was packing up my materials (which included big spreads of the original art), a teacher came up with a 3rd grade girl, and said, “Ellen had a question – you didn’t call on her.”  “Oh,” I said, “What is your question?” She asked, “How do you make them so pretty?” I almost teared up, and kept her question on a post-it in my studio for years. 

I have never forgotten that girl. Children appreciate beauty.


When you heard you won the New York Times best Illustrated Award, what did you do first? 

Cried, called my then-boyfriend (now husband). We had a glass of wine, and he proposed that evening!


Who in your past helped you to be come the writer and illustrator you are today

My first editor, Donna Brooks.


What are you working on now? 

MarketMaze, for Holiday House (Spring 2015), about where food comes from and how it gets to a town’s greenmarket.


Where is the best place to get a cup of joe or tea in your town?  

The rather basic Silver Deli downstairs from my studio.





Give us one word that best describes you. 

Tenacious.



What’s easier to paint or create…illustrations for children or cityscapes for adults?  

Children’s book illustrations.


How has Long Island influenced your writing and art?  

I live in midtown Manhattan; it’s great to come across (or under, via subway) the East River to this open industrial area where my studio is. More peaceful.


What 3 bullet points of advice would you give a newbie writer/illustrator? 

Join SCBWI. 

Hone your crafts: perfect your drawing skills; write, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. 

Be brave.


You’ve been drawing since you were six. Why do you think you were drawn to this type of creativity?  

My parents took us to museums, gave us books to read as babies, encouraged us to draw, make our own toys, clothes, build stuff. My older sister is also a professional artist.



What should schools do to help keep children on a creative path?  

More art classes. Recess. Not as much testing and programmed time.


Why is creativity important for kids?  

Where will our society be if we don’t have creative people?


Who is your biggest cheerleader?  

My Swedish husband, writer/photographer Bo Zaunders.




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

Check out my interactive apps (Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure; Roxie’s Doors; Roxie’s Puzzle Adventure).


Any big news?

Have a cool project (which I’ve been working on for 20 years!) coming out this summer called KIWiStoryBooks (kids interactive walk-in story books). 

Giant (5ft high by 13 ft long) “backdrops,” printed front and back involving various themes (dinosaurs, oceanographic research ship/coral reef; rainforest/desert; space station inside and out; medieval castle, more). 

Curriculum materials and free interactive apps come with each theme.

Website: www.roxiemunro.com 

Blog: roxiemunro.wordpress.com




Tuesday, March 4, 2014

THE BEST QUERY LETTER YET


 My internship with The Andrea Brown Literary Agency was amazing and fulfilling, and man did I learn a lot! I loved every minute of it, except reading every writer's query letters. 

Well, that's not true…some of them cracked me up, but most of them went on and on and were so boring and truthfully didn't help me to understand what the story was about.



Can you say ARCHIVE, people?


Anyway, I have used all that I learned about the good, the bad, and the ugly query letter and pulled all that information, or lack of it, into my very own attempt at an amazing query. 

I will share it with you below. I have not sent this version out yet to any agents, so I do not have any way of knowing if this is the one that will work for me or not. 


I do believe that it is the best query letter I have written thus far. I hope it helps you to make yours stronger too.








ANIMALIA QUERY:



Payton Whitworth is part of the problem. She is one of the privileged. And in a near future where animals are mutilated so the rich can look better, run faster, and live longer, she must decide if standing up for animals and the right to be herself is worth the cost of everything she's ever known. 
Payton had leopard skin grafted onto her neck and two peacock feathers growing from behind her ears before she was old enough to protest. But she likes her human body and she wants to keep the rest of her flesh and bones. Her parents push for her to have more animalia surgeries, in order to get accepted into HarvardLion and to remain in high society’s graces. But after falling in love with a strong-willed servant, Payton runs away from home.
She joins the anti-animalia movement with him. At first the assignments are small: release animals or mercy-kill them. But soon the movement expects more, the missions escalate. Eventually Payton is caught up in an explosion that kills dozens and injures hundreds. After the carnage, Payton must choose whether to return to her old life, keep following her boyfriend, or create a new path within the movement.
Payton will do anything to stop the abuse of animals and show the rich how twisted they’ve become. She was born to end animalia, even if the cost is her own skin.

 ANIMALIA is a completed 68,000-word sci-fi thriller. Think The Island of Dr. Moreau meets Uglies.

In 2014 I will be a staff writer for PALEO Magazine. During 2013 I interned for Laura Rennert at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. In 2011 & 2012 I helped to run the SF North Bay SCBWI writer’s conference. I graduated Writer’s Boot Camp Scripts in 2010 and I attended classes at Chatham University MFA program in 2006 - 2008. I've been published in the SF Chronicle and The Golden Penn. My blog, which gets over 3,000 views a month, showcases advice to newbie writers and interviews with published authors and other professionals in the industry.
Please see the first chapter of ANIMALIA below. 
I appreciate your consideration and look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Angie Azur




So there you have it. My pitch. It took me at least 12 drafts and re-writes before it got to this point. And I am still worried about it. Why are these so hard to write? 
Anyway, ANIMALIA is nearly finished being revised for the 5th time. Just small touch ups here and there to be sure everyone is wearing the same clothes in each chapter and the technology is called the same whenever it pops up in conversation. Small things, but important to have done right.
Once this is done, which I believe will be within the next 6 weeks, I will start my serious query of my top agents. 

So wish me tons of luck! And I will keep you informed of my rejections and hopefully my acceptances. 

Write~on
Angie