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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz: An Interview with Nancy Armo

On February 3, 2017, I reviewed Nancy Armo's debut picture book, A Friend For Mole. [Blog post - A Friend For Mole]. It's a really fun tale of two unlikely friends who decide to take a risk, work together, and overcome their fears. The tender drawings and imaginative solutions make it a book likely to be read over and over again.

Nancy Armo graciously agreed to swing by for a visit and share with us a bit about herself and her beautiful book.

Welcome Nancy, tell us a little about yourself. (How long have you been writing?)

I graduated from the University of Washington with a graphic design degree and jumped into the corporate world. I worked at Hewlett Packard for several years as art director and then publication manager. After HP, I bounced around in different design related jobs: art director for an architectural firm and later with an industrial design firm doing package design. It was after reading tons of picture books to my children that I got the bug to illustrate and write books. I began dividing my time between freelance design jobs and classes for illustration and writing. The journey to publication has been a long one. I spent five years learning the craft before the SCBWI-LA conference in 2012, where I received a portfolio honor. After that experience, I felt ready to submit art and manuscripts to editors and art directors.

Where/when do you write?

I carve up my day with writing in the morning and illustrating in the afternoon, and sometimes late into the night. I find that I can't have any music or distractions while writing, but the music is cranked up high when I'm drawing. I write and draw in a small room that was once a guest bedroom. It overlooks a tidal saltwater bay that is constantly changing and provides a nice visual break.

Wow, I love the sound of that office. What is your favorite type of book to write?

Friendship stories that have humor in them are what I like best. I love it when characters take a risk and discover things about themselves that they didn't know before. My favorite friendship stories are from Frog and Toad.

What is something no one (or few) knows about you?

I like to tap dance. I took lessons when I was seven years old, it's like riding a bike - you never forget. Unfortunately it's not a talent that you get to use often.

Ha! Who was your favorite author and/or favorite book as a child?

My favorite books as a child where the Ramona Quimby series by Beverly Cleary. I liked Ramona's spunk and the interaction she had with her family. I also liked that it was a series so each new book added depth to the characters.

What/who is your greatest source of inspiration? (As a child or now as a writer.)

As a writer, kids are my greatest source of inspiration especially kids with disabilities or outsiders. The courage they display on a daily basis to fit into a world that doesn't always accept them is inspiring.

How long have you been an illustrator?

I've been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. I did illustration all through school, in all the jobs that I've held, and now with children's books. I've done a lot of freelance work for a design agency that specializes in textbooks. It's very different from illustrating your own books in that all illustrations are specified and there is a fixed color palette you need to work from.

I love the illustrations in your portfolio. Especially the two kids in capes and the animals stacked up to reach the clover flower. What's something you want your readers to know about A Friend For Mole?

The night imagination sequences that Mole and Wolf go through to battle their fears is actually based on role playing therapy used by children with PSTD. The role playing empowers them to take an active role against their fears rather than being passive and letting their fears rule them.

Interesting. I envisioned it being useful to parents as a technique to combat the fear of the dark and monsters as well. This makes the book even more layered and useful. What projects are you working on now?

I have several projects in the works. I find that it's good to have several going at the same time especially when they are in the beginning stages. Sometimes you need to step back from a story, let it rest, and then come back to it with fresh eyes. Also it's fun to shift gears so you don't overwork a piece. This is true for illustration too. Right now I'm finishing up a manuscript about a little girl who discovers the power of scissors.

Ooh, I can't wait to see this one. It sounds intriguing. What do you know about writing, illustrating, or publishing now, that you wish you had known when you started?

How long everything takes in the publishing world. From the time of contract signing to having a physical book in hand can take years. I now understand some of the reasons for it but it still astonishes me. You need to have plenty of work in the pipelines to have a book published every year.

That is so very true. What is your favorite animal? Why?

Crows! Smart, fun to watch, and big personalities. There's a huge oak tree in our neighbor's yard where crows like to gather at dusk. Some days it seems like there could be 50 crows or more creating a riot of noise. They're like the neighborhood gang.

Good luck, Nancy, on your next endeavors. Thank you for stopping by and discussing your amazing book and yourself. This was lots of fun! 😊

Thank you Maria for inviting me to visit with you. Enjoyed it!

To find out more about Nancy Armo, or contact her:

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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