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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Toni Yuly

Today, I have the pleasure of talking with a local author and amazing artist Toni Yuly. Many of you may know Toni from her board books EARLY BIRD and NIGHT OWL.

Toni, thank you for joining me to talk about your newest book and illustrating.

Sure thing! Thank you Maria.

ME: Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write? How long have you been writing? What is your favorite type of book to write or illustrate?)

Toni: I am an early bird so I get up with the sun and make the long commute to my studio which is about 15 feet from my home. I have always liked writing and so far the only books I have published are picture books but I would totally like to write all kinds of other things...plays, poetry, adult fiction. But, picture books are pretty special and magical I think so I am super happy and grateful to be able to keep making them!

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

I was the 5th fastest breastroke swimmer in the state of Washington, in high school.

Great fact! How would you describe your style of illustration? What is your favorite medium and colors?

I don’t think I have a style but if I had to say I would say... minimal graphic. I love collage and all colors.

I love your torn paper illustrations and your "torn tissue Tuesday" posts. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?

I wasn’t a big reader as a kid but when a librarian handed me a copy of Charlotte’s Web, I fell in love. That book is still one of my favorites.

How do you shift between illustrations and writing? (Which comes first? Which is the hardest?)

I don’t really shift, especially in the all just kind of runs together.

They both have their ups and downs and take a long time to get just right for me. I really have to work it and work it to get what I want from writing and illustrating. When I have sold a picture book and am getting ready to work with a publisher we usually hone the words first and then I am “free” to do the artwork...but by this time the initial process of creating something from nothing is long past and we are beginning the next phase in the creative process which separates the two things a bit more….does that make sense?

Yes it does. Once you get to focus on the illustrating, you're no longer wearing your "writing" hat. What's something you want your readers to know about Thank You Bees?

Well, it took a long, long time to get here...I wrote it when my son was 4 or 5 and he is now 26. It feels like a magical book to me...deceptively simple but full of so much! I am not a religious person but very spiritual and Thank You Bees is almost like a gratitude prayer or chant without any heavy handedness to it...and I think it has a kind of soft power to it...well anyway, I hope readers feel what I tried to put into the book.

How does Thank You Bees differ from Early Bird, Night Owl, and Cat Nap?

I think my answer to your last question kind of answer this one. My first 4 books (Early Bird, Night Owl, Cat Nap and The Jelly Bean Tree) all feature animals and some kind of concept. I guess they are similar in that they are all simple and I try to get to the essence of an idea but at the same time bring a lot of layers to that simple essence.

What/who is your greatest source of inspiration? (as a child or now as an author or illustrator.)

Well inspiration is a strange word...I am inspired every day mostly by nature...but really everything can inspire, even garbage or a dead plant. But I would have to say that the year I spent in Japan at age 17 changed my life in so many ways...and inspired me to get out of my comfort zone.

Do you have a favorite book? (We promise NOT to tell the others) Perhaps one that was the most gratifying to write? One that means the most you or your family? Or one that tickled your funny bone the most?

That is a hard one but probably, Thank You Bees. My favorite book is always the one I am working on and the companion to Thank You Bees is called, The Whole Wide World and Me and I really love that one too and just finished the artwork for it.

Ooh, I am excited to read this new book. What has been the most frustrating aspect or period of time as a children’s author/illustrator for you?

Paying for my own health insurance!

Touché. Any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

The Whole Wide World and Me is the companion to Thank You Bees and it is similar but different. Similar in that it isn’t really a “story.” It is really a poem and the basic theme is feeling tiny and big at the same time in nature. I first had this feeling when I was about 4, I think, and it has stayed with me is a great feeling of being connected to nature.

I was lucky to have grown up in a beautiful, wild kind of natural place and I think nature can really heal and inspire us. Also I love the planet earth so much and don’t think it is appreciated enough...what a miracle it is to live on this planet.

Is there anything about writing, illustrating, or publishing you know now that you wished you had known when you started?

Hmmmm, I don’t know much still! Haha. I have a lot to learn I think and try to be open to that.

What is your favorite animal? Why?

I can’t choose just one. I love them all except for some bugs which freak me out.

Thank you Toni for stopping by to chat!

Thank You Bees released September 12th. Be sure to stop back by Friday for the #PPBF review.

To find out more about Toni Yuly, or get in touch with her:

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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