The WAIT! is over, my friends.
Meet the fabulous NYT bestselling author/illustrator Antoinette Portis.
Her amazing books include WAIT! as well as
NOT A STICK, A PENGUIN STORY (also chosen as a NYT Best Illustrated Book),
KINDERGARTEN DIARY, plus two forthcoming titles,
BEST FRINTS IN THE WHOLE UNIVERSE
Portis takes word-play to new heights–to the delight of children and adult readers alike–and I am in awe of her ability to make every word count.
Thank you Antoinette, for the fun and informative interview!
Q. As an author/illustrator–which comes first: thumbnails and quick-sketches or a rough draft of text?
Antoinette: I usually start with text. If I can’t come up with a beginning, middle and end, then an idea is probably not worth pursuing. Endings are hard! I’m good at coming up with ideas that are all middle.
Sometimes I sketch a character or a scene while I’m still writing—kind of a key image that cements the mood of the book for me. Once the text seems to work, I storyboard it to work out the pagination and composition and then a make a full-size dummy. I revise and tinker all along the way. I make many, many versions of each dummy.
Q. Which of your many wonderful books could be a metaphor for your process or journey as an author/illustrator?
Not a Box
Not a Stick
A Penguin Story
Princess Super Kitty
Antoinette: Most of my books are about aspects of the creative process as I experience them.
NOT A BOX is an ode to the joy of creating. I remember the bliss I felt making up a fantasy scenario that completely entertained me, and the neighborhood kids, too. Imagination is a super power all children possess—and it’s one power they can exercise freely. I can’t stop wanting to celebrate that!
I can look at FROODLE as a metaphor for facing down my inner critic, the voice that tries to shut me down.
My next two books I’ve written and illustrated, BEST FRINTS IN THE WHOLE UNIVERSE and NOW, are the first two I’ve done that don’t address the theme of creativity. But I wouldn’t be surprised if that theme shows up again.
Q. When you were growing up, what was one of the hardest things to wait for? A holiday? special birthday? the school bus? a sibling? the bell to ring? your driver’s license? graduation? How about now–as an author/illustrator?
Antoinette: I loved the build-up to Easter and Christmas. The wishing and hoping and preparing were the best parts. And no present was ever as wonderful as the fantasy of it.
Finishing up art for a book and then a waiting a year for the book to come out is unbearable. At first I feel like I’ll explode with impatience. Then, by the time the book does come out, I’ve finished art for another and my mind is in a whole different space. I have to make friends with last year’s work all over again. It’s a weird process. I was used to the world of graphic design where everything happens fast.
Q. Since your husband Michael Portis is an author too (Forthcoming titles:PINKY GOT OUT & PINKY GOT OUT AGAIN) do you two share an office? Work at opposite ends of the house? Brainstorm ideas? Throw paper airplanes at each other?
Antoinette: We both have studios in the house—at opposite ends. Our house is like a picture book bio-dome. We’re always there and we’re always working. We give each other advice and feedback–sometimes solicited, sometimes not. There’s always a lot to talk about. We met in art school, and this new life (both of us making picture books) is a continuation of that connection. We’ve made 6-hour drives to San Francisco from LA, talking picture books the whole way.
Q. Where did the idea for WAIT! come from?
Antoinette: It’s based on a little moment I observed sitting in a café. A toddler and mom walked by, but he broke away from her to come over and peer at a bug on the windowsill right in front of me. His mom came back, grabbed his hand and trotted him off down the street—clearly in a rush. I thought, “Thanks for the book idea.” I identified with the little boy, of course, not the mom. I thought how frustrating little kids’ lives can be—no control over the pace or destination in their daily journeying.
As I’ve been talking about WAIT, I’ve been thinking about my own experience of being a working mom with a toddler. The times I slowed down to my daughter’s pace and we rambled around the neighborhood or the park, collecting leaves or interesting stuff to use making collages, were some of my favorite times ever. Her curiosity and appreciation of everything around her re-opened my artist’s eyes. The book’s ending is a tribute to those moments when the child becomes your teacher.
Visit AntoinettePortis.com to find out more.
Here’s to listening to the children around us,
and our inner child as well.
Happy beginning, middle, and ends to all!