I am honored and excited to chat with
author Linda Sue Park (L.) and illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi (R.)
about their wonderful picture book,
(Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
which releases NEXT WEEK.
Let the cosmic adventures begin!
Q1 What was the inspiration for GURPLE AND PREEN. Which came first? The broken crayon doodles or the story?
DEBBIE: I found out that Linda Sue Park liked my broken crayon doodles when she emailed to ask if she could buy a print of one of them.
I remember being SO THRILLED; I am a longtime fan of Linda Sue’s work, plus we have the same awesome agent, Ginger Knowlton.
I created and sent a print but refused to take any payment. Linda Sue made a donation to We Need Diverse Books in my name instead.
Sometime later, we found ourselves both on faculty at the SCBWI Northern Ohio regional conference (top photo), and talked about my broken crayon art. Linda Sue said she assumed that I was working on my own story, and I confessed that I had been unable to come up with a story that I wanted to illustrate. We talked some more, and I was over-the-moon excited when Linda Sue agreed to try writing a story for my broken crayon art.
LINDA SUE: Debbie’s broken-crayon concept was of course the main inspiration. So I knew the story would have to somehow involve BREAKAGE.
When I combined that idea with the robot I loved, I came up with the idea of a story set in space, and a rocket crash-landing. The story went through several drafts–I think the version that’s being published is number fifteen–under the guidance of S&S editor Justin Chanda, who asked helpful questions every step of the way.
Q. 2 They say every book is a bit autobiographical in some way. Are you more like Gurple or Preen?
DEBBIE: I’m more like Gurple on some days, more like Preen on others. Like Gurple, I tend to get easily stressed sometimes, especially when I’m trying to do too many things. Like Preen, I like to recycle objects, especially incorporating them into found object art. The latter tendency makes me a bit of a packrat.
LINDA SUE: My family would say unanimously that I’m more like Gurple, always running around yelling and waving my arms. They’re wrong, of course. I’m Preen–I love to get things done! But I don’t wear a bow.
Q 3 I see that you both like board games. Which board game best describes your #kidlit careers?
- Chutes and Ladders
- Trivial Pursuit
- _________________other. (Your Choice)
DEBBIE: This is a great question but tough to answer! Chutes and Ladders is mostly based on luck, so while I do believe that there is an element of luck in my children’s book career, there were also a lot of choices. Battleship is too conflict-y and represents what happened to me; in contrast, I found that so much of my career success has been because of people HELPING me. Ditto for Risk. I don’t see any connection with Trivial Pursuit, and I’m also terrible at the game. If I was going to choose one game, it would probably be a semi-cooperative board game in which everyone works together to some extent, but each individual also has their own goals to achieve, like Nemesis.
LINDA SUE: Scrabble. And I used to be big on trivia games, but as I get older, I find that my memory just isn’t what it used to be. Sigh.
Q 4 I love this blurb for GURPLE AND PREEN:
“With a bit of teamwork
and a universe of creativity,
anything is possible!”
What does it mean to you to have teamed up together on this project? *And are you cooking up more collaborations?
DEBBIE: I love that this project happened because of a conversation that Linda Sue and I had at an SCBWI regional conference. Yes, it might still have happened in some other way, but I’m grateful to the SCBWI (and especially the organizers of the SCBWI Northern Ohio regional conference) for events at which conversations and creative collaborations like this can happen!
LINDA SUE: For me, this collaboration was unique. I’d never written a story based on an illustrative concept. It was challenging because I kept trying to include as many broken-crayon scenes as possible…and in doing so, I would end up with a series of scenes that weren’t a real story. It took me several tries before I figured out that the story had to come first. Sheesh, you’d think I would know that by now!
And yes, I love that SCBWI played a role in bringing this book to life.
Q5 What was one of the most surprising discoveries you made in creating this book?
DEBBIE: You never know what will come out of a broken crayon — like THIS BOOK!
LINDA SUE: I got a peek into the illustration process that I’d never experienced with my previous picture books. Because of the unique nature of this collaboration, I was shown sketches and other parts of Debbie’s process much earlier than usual. I especially loved learning a little about Debbie’s revision journey. When she revised any part of the art, she had to re-draw, re-photograph, and re-digitize the whole thing! That seems to me a lot harder than deleting and re-typing.
Q 6 Please tell us about your other projects, just released or in the works.
DEBBIE: Projects I’m working on right now include illustrations for I’M SORRY, the newest in the I’M…. picture books series about kids’ emotions, written by Michael Ian Black (Simon & Schuster), as well as my own middle grade writing projects.
LINDA SUE: My most recent middle-grade novel is PRAIRIE LOTUS (Clarion / HMH), historical fiction set in the 1880s. It’s about a 14-year-old girl named Hanna, trying to find her place in a new town on the prairie, where she’s not welcome because she’s part-Asian. I hope readers will enjoy learning about the details of Hanna’s daily life (there are worms in the flour! Yuck!), and that the story will make them think about the parallels between her world and ours.
I also have a poetry collection coming out in Spring 2021. THE ONE THING YOU’D SAVE (Clarion/HMH) is set in a classroom where the teacher and students are having a discussion. The teacher asks a hypothetical question: If there were a fire in your home, what is the one thing you would save? The poems are all written using the sijo syllabic format, a traditional Korean verse form. And the book is fully illustrated by Robert Sae Heng.
What question do you wish I’d asked?
Q. Who was the awesome art director behind GURPLE AND PREEN?
A. I’m so glad you asked! I am so lucky to be working with Laurent Linn at Simon & Schuster. He is everything an illustrator could hope for in an art director.
Q: What do you hope young readers will take away from GURPLE & PREEN?
A: Recycle, re-purpose, re-use! That’s what Debbie’s ‘found-object’ art is all about, and it’s what young people are going to have to do to save the planet.
Looks like GURPLE AND PREEN will help too!
To learn more about Linda Sue & Debbie,
check out their web sites
and follow them on Twitter:
Linda Sue Park:
Debbie Ridpath Ohi:
Huge thanks to you both for sharing your thoughts–and talents–with us.
Next up: Celebrate the Sept. 1st Book Birthday of Martha Brockenbrough’s THIS OLD DOG. (Levine Querido, illus. Gabriel Alborozo)
As for “Recycle, re-purpose, re-use” and saving the planet–I can’t wait to share my picture book, DEAR EARTH–From Your Friends in Room 5, illustrated by the fabulous Luisa Uribe, coming from Harper Collins Dec. 1st.