Annual Summer Blog Hiatus


Lovely blog-following peeps,

As I do every summer, I shall be taking July and August off from my usual blogging schedule. This is for two reasons: firstly, a break always enables me to return refreshed and re-inspired to blogging, an activity which is time-consuming but oh so very rewarding; secondly, I am once again between homes and cannot be sure where I will be staying and how much wifi access I will have over the summer!

Bus, ferry, bike, car, on foot…this summer as with last will include exploring this wonderful nation and catching up with old and new friends. I am animal-sitting, which I adore, and which gives me solid amounts of time to write, also one of my main goals for the summer. Last year I headed west. This year my travels will take me as far south as Virginia and I hope as far north as Maine and include an island or two en route. No Canada trip this year I am afraid as I am awaiting a visa decision, which precludes leaving the country.

While it is a tad scary not having a place-to-call-home, it is a privilege to have the freedom and possibility to travel like this.

See y’all in September and enjoy your down time, a chance to be outside and the liberty to travel in this nation.


Luciana Navarro Powell – Illustrator Interview

handsWhile I was visiting my author friend Marcie Colleen in San Diego this April, we popped into Warwick’s Bookstore in La Jolla to support Luciana who was signing books as the illustrator of WHOSE HANDS ARE THESE? by another friend, Miranda Paul. What a sweet moment to finally meet this FB friend whom I have been following for several years online. I am proud to say that Luciana is my second Brazilian interviewee! I am also very excited to say that we are the first to get a sneak peak of her latest project!!


[JM] Illustrator or author/illustrator? If the latter, do you begin with words or pictures?

[LNP] I’m an author/illustrator, but the author part is recent, I always start with the visual concept.


My Dad is the Best Playground

[JM] Where are you from/have you lived and how has that influenced your work?

[LNP] I grew up in Brazil and moved to the US 14 years ago. I am not sure that any early influence is visible in my work today because my style has changed dramatically since I started. In the beginning of my career still in Brazil my media of choice was mostly watercolor, and environmental issues were a constant subject matter of my earlier work, so that combination created a visual style of its own. The photo shows an example of that phase. After I moved to the US I believe I was influenced a lot by the picture book landscape that I found here.


[JM] Tell us a little of your beginnings and journey as an artist.

[LNP] Drawing was a favorite past time of my childhood. My father would bring stacks of printed sheets from work and I would draw on the back side – my parents say there wasn’t a stack of paper high enough for my drawing appetite. I graduated with a degree in Product Design and worked as a product and graphic designer for a few years, but I was always drawing and taking freelance illustration projects on the side from an editor I met in college. She edited a magazine focused on environmental issues to educate kids in the rural areas of the state I lived. That magazine has reached over 1 million kids over the years. When I moved to the US in 2002, I still worked for them long-distance for about a year, until I got a job as a designer/art-buyer/in-house illustrator at Pearson Education in the Chicago area. It was my first job in the US and it opened so many doors for me. I got to learn a lot about children’s publishing here and got to know the work of many wonderful authors and illustrators. I was part of a great team of designers who I still keep in touch with till this day, even though we have all spread to different places and jobs since then. When I moved to California in 2006 I started to work full-time as a freelancer again, illustrating all sort of publications for children, and eventually started writing.

3a 3b[JM] What is your preferred medium to work in?

[LNP] I started my career using watercolor and acrylic paints, and eventually migrated to digital media. I’ve been feeling a pull back to watercolor lately, though. It is hard to give up the control you have working digitally – the ability to correct mistakes, change colors, cut and paste at will, mix textures… So what I do now is I paint stains, backgrounds, basic shapes in watercolor, then scan and re-work them digitally. This way I can retain the loose feel of the medium and at the same time still have the control tools at my disposal. I also have a completely different style, similar to a collage, that I do mostly to render animals. I will describe and show examples a little later in the interview.


“My Dad is the Best Playground” Random House



[JM] Do you have themes or characters you return to in your art?

[LNP] It is not deliberate, but it seems like family is a recurrent theme in my latest work for picture books. And dinosaurs. I have illustrated 5 books on dinosaurs so far. I joke with my friends: “if you hear me all excited talking about a new dinosaur book I’m about to illustrate, please call an intervention”. Obviously it’s a joke – I can’t get enough of dinosaurs, if you are an editor reading this… I’m your person for that next dinosaur book. Interestingly enough, my sons were never into dino-fever. I also love to illustrate animals.


“Busy Little Dinosaurs” Capstone Young Readers

[JM] Can you share a piece or two with us, maybe of a WIP or recent publication, and the process of creating them?

[LNP] This is a sneak peek at a series that is coming out for the educational market next year. It’s a style that I use to illustrate animals, that I call my “stuffed animal collage style”. I got special permission from the publisher to show this for the first time ever here in your blog Joanna! It’s a series of big books for pre-school by McGraw-Hill Education. There are 8 “Little Dog” stories that I illustrated, and the stories talk about different aspects of emotional intelligence and help kids to develop emotional skills through the different feelings that these dogs represent. I did an extensive character study and came up with these.

They were all created using pieces of felt and stuffed animals that I have. I cut and paste different parts of the stuffed animals, change colors, shapes, and construct these fluffy characters that look like you could touch them. Because they each represent a different emotion, the dogs facial expressions and body language were something I had to always keep in mind. Their hug-able appearance are also part of the appeal for the intended audience. My favorite story to illustrate was “I Can Control Myself” where – you guessed it – the dogs don’t get their way and throw tantrums left and right. So fun!


photos: character study, original textures, a few spreads for “Little Dog” series

[JM] I know you have done work for Nat Geo. I am a big fan and often review for them, so can you share with us an illustration or two you have done for them?

[LNP] It was a few years ago, a series of frogs to be chapter openers in one of their school textbooks. I could only retrieve this, but I think it’s interesting because it shows different color studies that we worked at until arriving at the final ones. It was fun for me to dig these up from memory lane!

Frog CRX.pdf

color studies for Nat Geo work book

[JM] What does your workspace look like? 


[JM] What artwork do you have hanging in your house? 

[LNP] A mix of art my husband and I acquired during trips over the years, our boys art, murals done by me, mementos from trips.

[JM] At what point in your process do you consider the endpaper design?

[LNP] It changes depending on the project. In “Whose Hands Are These?”, by Miranda Paul published by Millbrook/Lerner, it was the very last part of the final art process, after I had art for the whole book done. For the book I’m currently working on, called “Babies Come from Airports” by Erin Dealey published by Kane Miller 2017, endpaper will help me to tell the story – front matter tells what happens before the book starts, and end-matter will give us hints of the story after the curtains close – so I sketched them along with the rest of the story in the very first stages of the book.

10 9.02.40 AM

Five Fun Ones to Finish
[JM] What’s your favorite park (state/urban..) in the world?

[LNP] Probably Joshua Tree National Park, specially in early spring when the desert flowers are blooming… I go camping many times a year with my family, and the landscape is so incredibly different and surreal for someone like me, who grew up in a tropical country. The colors change dramatically through out the day and throughout the seasons … sometimes I bring my watercolors with me to try to capture it.

[JM] Cats or dogs?

[LNP] I don’t have any right now, but I grew up with Afghan Hounds, of all breeds – which is probably closer to a cat in personality than any other dog, not affectionate, aloof… after that we had a gorgeous and very affectionate Birman cat for many years, and he was lovely. So… cats!


Rhodes, afghan hound puppy, and I

[JM] OMgosh, that photo is adorable! Fact that most people don’t know about you?

[LNP] I’m terrified of earthquakes, and I remember vividly reading about “the big one” that was going to happen in California when I was in 5th grade… this was in the 80s. I remember thinking “well, good thing I will never live in California”. Ha! Never say never…

[JM] What word best sums you up?

[LNP] Hugger

[JM] Aww! Go to snack/drink to sustain your creative juices?

[LNP] Expresso! My morning joy, making a cup of latte and trying to create some latte art with the foam. It is very difficult, but sometimes I succeed, and get to make a “latte art for the day”. 

C. G. Watson – Author/Activist Interview

CG headshot1I connected online with Carrie (aka C G Watson) not just because she is another cool YA author, which she is, but because of a sense of simpatico, which I believe is totally transmissible online. It wasn’t just the cute cat pics either, but this creative shares similar passions and goals and an awareness of the impact of good books and mentoring. Read on to find out more.

[JM] Where are you from/have you lived, and how has that influenced your writing?

[CGW] I’ve lived exclusively in California my entire life, but I’ve traveled to lots of other places. One thing about only living in one kind of place is that it makes me want to know and write about other kinds of places. So I try to set my stories in a variety of locations.

[JM] Tell us a little of your beginnings and journey as an author?

[CGW] I’ve always been a writer in one form or another, but in 2005, I went to the page to work through some feelings of helplessness I was experiencing as a classroom teacher – watching a culture of meanness play out among my students and realizing I had almost no power to change it. In processing my concern through story-telling, I ended up creating an early draft of my debut novel, QUAD.


[JM] Do you have a favorite social media platform, and if so, why?

[CGW] I still crush on FB. I know! I do flirt with Twitter, but it intimidates me. I have a few followers but have literally only posted like five original tweets ever. Whereas FB, for me, is more like: “I live in my own little world, but that’s okay. They know me here.”

[JM] Please would you share your agent story with us? 

[CGW] In 2008, I found myself without an agent, and by providence met Erin Murphy at an SCBWI sponsored event later that year. We were both panelists at the event, so we had a chance to get acquainted the night before. My first impression was that she was super-nice, and so real. Once she gave her presentation, she hit agent-crush status. I asked her if I could query her, and she said yes. The initial pages I sent her weren’t polished enough to make her sign me, but they did make her want to sign me. It took two years, but in the end, it was definitely worth the wait.

CG & EMu

CG & EMu

[JM] Thanks for the encouragement to persevere when we think we have found the right agent. I recently read your latest YA novel, ASCENDING THE BONEYARD, over a weekend because it was that good. As a non-gamer, I could follow the fast-paced gaming world plot with ease. Did this story come from personal experience or the experience of teens in your life?

[CGW] Why thank you! It actually morphed from a totally different initial concept, but one in which the main character was always Caleb Tosh and always a gamer. Once it became clear that the game played a major role in his journey, I had to enlist the help of gamer friends (including my then-14 year old daughter) to work those parts out. But as you probably discovered, this is not a gaming story. The video game, Boneyard, is a metaphor for struggle, for unhealthy coping mechanisms, for getting lost in the landscape of loss and grief. And those are things I drew from, both in my own experience with loss-related pain, and from being a high school teacher for the better part of 30 years – from asking about and listening to the way young people relate their stories of loss.


[JM] What was the first book you ever bought with your own money? 

[CGW] Oh dear. Hmm. I confess to not having been an avid reader as a young person. I was definitely a “reluctant reader,” although there was no word for it at the time. My experience with reading was that if the text was too dense, it intimidated me, and if it wasn’t dense, it was probably too sanitized or boring to hold my interest. I think my first book purchase was M.E. Kerr’s Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack, about a girl whose mother is a drug crisis counselor who fails to see that her own daughter is in serious emotional crisis. Way ahead of it’s time.

Dinky Hocker

[JM] Tell us a little about any writing groups or communities you are involved in.

[CGW] This may sound odd because it’s so rare, but my main writing community is populated by my agency-mates. We don’t operate like a classic critique group, although we do sometimes lean on each other for help in that way. It’s more of a support community for everything from publishing challenges and victories to personal life stuff. I’ve never known a more caring or embracing group of people. On a personal level, they’ve carried me though some profoundly tough times in my life.

[JM] I confess to a healthy envy of the EMLA community! What artwork do you have on the walls of your home? 

[CGW] There is SO much artwork on the walls of my home! Inspirational quotes, one-of-a-kind pieces (including my daughter’s stained glass and mosaics), lots and lots of sugar skulls and Day of the Dead art. We have one wall of nothing but photos/art signed by our artistic heroes. Oh, and a Hamilton print that I hope to also get signed one day. But I’m most proud of my dad’s art. I have several of his pieces on display, like this statement he made on the Viet Nam war.

Dad's Vietnam art

Dad’s Vietnam art

[JM] In following you online, I have been very impressed with all I have seen about the non-profit Never Counted Out that you have pioneered with YA author/filmmaker e.E. Charlton-Trujillo. How did you connect with e.E.? And please tell us about your goals/hopes for this non-profit.

[CGW] We connected on Facebook in 2008, but moved from periphery to social sphere in 2011. The mutual respect for one another’s work was immediate, and we always knew we’d eventually collaborate on something. That opportunity came in 2013 when e.E. went out on her Fat Angie “book tour,” which led to the creation of her documentary film At-Risk Summer, which led her to the realization that there are so many young people around the country whose powerful creative voices are stuck in neutral without creative mentors in their lives. Never Counted Out is the articulated vision of that awareness. Our goal is three-prong: get books into the hands of programs that serve at-risk youth (we ship out dozens of donated books each month and are always open to donations); connect at-risk youth around the country with creative mentors, writers, musicians, and artists who are willing to donate one hour a year of mentorship to a program in their community – we’ll facilitate the process by creating and curating a database of programs and artists; and offering creative mentorship camps for young people around the country to come and workshop with the best writers (and eventually other artists) in the field. The first of those camps will go live this December, in partnership with the Highlights Foundation.

[JM] What is your main writing fault/flaw?

[CGW] Okay, here it is. I’m not a good plotter – I prefer taking a more organic path. Unfortunately, free-range characters will often do something ridiculous, or will wander off and take the plot with them. That’s the problem with being a reluctant plotter. Too often, my story sees something shiny, like “Pretty butterfly!” and away it goes. It’s a constant battle.

Oh, I’m a pantser (reluctant plotter) too! Five Fun Ones to Finish

[JM] What’s your favorite park in the world? (national/state/urban…) 

[CGW] Guell Park, Barcelona Spain. Funktastic! Designed by Antonio Gaudí, and just a straight-up visual mind-trip.

Guell Park

Guell Park

[JM] Cats or Dogs? 

[CGW] Cats. Although our cat is actually part dog, so it’s like having the best of both worlds.



[JM] Fact most people don’t know about you?

[CGW] Back in the day, I was a brilliant water-skiier.

[JM] What was your first paid job (aside babysitting)?

[CGW] I worked at a Texaco in the middle of nowhere (but right off a major interstate) for a hot minute when I was 16. Serious ick.

[JM] Ick! Go to snack and/or drink to keep those creative juices flowing.

[CGW] Coffee! And Trader Joe’s Partially Popped Butterscotch and Sea Salt Popcorn. And Hot Tamales.

Carrie, thanks so much for sharing your world and hopes with us today. Wishing you every success with your present and next writing project and look forward to hearing more about December’s first Never Counted Out camp.

To connect with and find out more about C. G. check out the following links:

Facebook: Carrie Gordon Watson
Twitter: @cgordonw                                                                     
Instagram : antiquecarrot