One of my cyber-writer/illustrator friends, Alison Kipnis Hertz, is having a book launch TODAY! Her new book is called Flap! (When Max and Katie try to teach their little sister to fly they quickly learn that telling her to Flap! just isn’t enough.)
I originally became acquainted with Alison Hertz through Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 writing challenge. Then more recently through PictureBookIdeaMonth and SketchADayMonth (which she encouraged me to join). Alison’s posts are energetic, encouraging, creative, thoughtful and fun (and sometimes all five in one.)
I’ve been wanting to do some ‘interviews’ with fellow writers/illustrators and have been shy about asking since I’m really just beginning to build my blog. But when I saw Alison’s book was coming out I decided I had to ask if she would be my first interview and she said YES!
I believe Alison is currently on her way to Chicago to be with her 97 yr old grandpa who is in the hospital. So if she isn’t able to respond to your comments right away, please understand, but comment anyway to encourage her!! And now……here’s my interview with multi-talented Alison Kipnis Hertz:
Alison Kipnis Hertz
Laura: Tell us a little about yourself and your family and something we don’t know about you.
Alison: I am a mom, a writer, an illustrator, a teacher, a toy designer, a juggler, and a former camp director. I live in Georgia with my wonderful husband, two creative children, and two fluffy dogs. I am sure that if you read on, you will learn much about me that you didn’t know…
Laura: Describe yourself in 5 words.
Alison: Creative, Analytical – these two often contradict each other, Caring, Resourceful, and Hopeful.
Laura: On your website you say you always liked to draw. When did you first start drawing and writing with intention?
Alison: I studied Architecture and City Planning in college so I filled journals with thoughts about shape and design and sketches of buildings. Throughout my college summers, I worked as a camp counselor and told stories to my campers every night but it wasn’t until I studied Toy Design at FIT in NY nearly twenty years ago that I learned how to pair my stories and drawings for children. I wrote and illustrated a picture book while studying there and created my first real character. You can see Dagan on the homepage of my website.
Laura: What or who was a big influence to your ambitions and/or writing/illustrating?
Alison: When I was young, my mother (who had been a high school English teacher) taught me to think critically about my own writing. She also showed me sketches she had done in college. They were loose line drawings but they showed position, proportion, and emotion. I wanted to draw like that. My mother was a big influence on who I am today. My grandfather, Papa Gus, is a chemist and an inventor and he taught me that I could do anything and that it’s not just “ok” but a wonderful thing to be able to think outside the box.
Laura: What a wonderful legacy from your family. Who is a favorite children’s writer and why?
Alison: I really can’t choose just one. I enjoy the writing of different children’s authors for different reasons. Madeline L’Engle hooked me on reading when I was nine years old with A Wrinkle in Time. Donald Sobol taught me how fun it is to read the same stories over and over again with his Encyclopedia Brown series. Now, I appreciate authors who create stories that pull me in like Ingrid Law with Savvy and Jody Feldman with Gollywhopper Games.
Laura: Who is a favorite children’s illustrator and why?
Alison: I love the illustrations created by Erin Mauterer because she has a wonderful ability to show movement and playfulness in her work. If you haven’t seen The New Red Bed, check it out. I also love Will Terry’s work. He creates warmth in his illustrations that makes them come to life. He also teaches online classes through the FolioAcademy where he shares his techniques.
Laura: How did you get the idea for ‘Flap!’?
Alison: Ha ha. Growing up as the little sister of male and female twins, I was often the test pilot of many of their brilliant ideas.
Laura: (laughing out loud) I think I’m glad I was an only child! What medium did you use for the illustrations?
Alison: I draw in my sketchbook with three shades of blue. It doesn’t smear like a traditional pencil and it shows well when I scan them in to my computer. I use those sketches as the bottom layer in Sketchbook Pro when I want to tighten up the art. I also sketch everyday on my ipad in Sketchbook Pro. I am able to replicate the feeling of using a pencil and make changes quickly and easily.
Laura: About how long did it take you from start to finish (idea, writing, sketching, final art)?
Alison: It only took a couple of hours to write the story the first time but then I re-wrote and revised it at least twenty times before and after signing the contract with my publisher. I completed all of the sketches and final illustrations in less than three months to stay within a tight publication schedule.
Laura: How did you research/choose where to submit the story?
Alison: I sent several submissions to agents and to publishers before I knew that I really needed to research where I was sending my manuscript to make sure it is the right fit for what that publisher is producing. I attended every conference, seminar, and presentation on writing, publishing, and submitting that I could find and was lucky enough to meet the editor for Weaving Dreams Publishing at a library presentation on publishing. She told me that she was starting an imprint for stories for children, Magic Dreams Publishing, and that I should send something to her.
Laura: How can we obtain a copy of Flap! ?
Alison: Flap! can be ordered on IndieBound, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon. You can also order it directly from my website (if you want an autographed copy) or from Magic Dreams Publishing’s website.
Laura: Any advice for we aspiring authors/illustrators?
Alison: Read, write, and draw everyday. If you are not an illustrator, draw anyway – it can be stick figures or blogs to represent the location of characters. You need to make sure that there are enough different scenes to support a 32 page picture book. With work, kids, networking, etc… our lives are busy but carve out the time to journal, doodle, create an outline, write a story, anything to keep the creative juices flowing everyday.
Laura: That’s great advice, Alison, whether we are new to the picture book world or seasoned professionals. Now, I’m curious, what is the story behind ‘Toy Designer’? What kind of toys did you design?
Alison: This is a long story so I will sum it up by letting you know that I created hundreds of toys that were sold in Toys R Us, WalMarts, and Disney stores. I’ll save the details for another day.
Laura: Wow! I’m impressed. What about being a circus performer as a teenager? What did you do?
Alison: Juggling, unicycling, stiltwalking, rolling globe, and high wire. I know it sounds crazy but I was a very coordinated dare devil so the circus was a perfect fit.
Laura: Goodness, having those twin siblings must have prepared you for an exciting lifestyle! What was a hardship you overcame that has made you stronger or better in your career life?
Alison: There have been many. You head down a path and a giant obstacle gets in the way – in my case, a car crash into a gravel truck. Your path changes, your destination changes. I was pretty smashed up after the car accident so I left the career of Toy Design, because I couldn’t draw all day anymore, and earned a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Becoming a teacher led me to teaching writing and teaching art. I now use these skills together everyday.
Laura: I have to say although you had to change careers , as a teacher you were surely an influence and a blessing to your students . Now some ‘just for fun’ questions. If you could go anywhere on a vacation where would it be?
Alison: I would love to go to Australia or London and I have yet to see the Grand Canyon.
Laura: What artist or writer (alive or deceased) would you like to meet and what would you say to them or ask them?
Alison: I would ask Piers Anthony (he’s alive) which character in his Xanth series is most like him. I would love to meet Kandinsky (not alive) to learn more about his influences in his art.
Laura: Alison, thanks so much for sharing with us. Congratulations on your new book, Flap! And our thoughts are with you and your grandpa. You can follow up with Alison on any of these:
website address: www.AlisonHertz.com
Oh and for anyone keeping track, I’ll be posting my SkADaMo updates. I’ve been working on a project due date, also had dinner for 40 people this week and the loss of a dear friend and funeral. I’ve kept up my sketches in the evening (some of them do look a little sleepy…just haven’t had time to scan.)
Blessings on your creativity! Laura
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