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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Elizabeth Rose Stanton

During two local book launches, I had the privilege to meet and become friends with a wonderfully talented Pacific Northwest author/illustrator. I'm excited to share with you a peek into her process, inspiration, and art.

Elizabeth Rose Stanton began her picture book writing and illustrating adventure a few years ago, after a brief career as an architect, and long career as a parent and fine artist.

Her debut book, Henny, starred by Booklist (American Library Association), was named as one of the best books of 2014 for children by The New York Public Library. The School Library Journal called her second book, Peddles, “. . . quietly wonderful” and Kirkus Reviews called her next book, Bub (2018), “Downright charming. . .” and “Visually engaging. . ..”

Elizabeth grew up in western New York and now lives in Seattle with her husband and a pair of Scottish Fold cats. Welcome Elizabeth Rose Stanton.

Elizabeth, thank you so much for swinging by to talk about your newest book and writing.

Thank you for having me!

ME: Tell us a little about yourself. Where/when do you write/draw?

ELIZABETH: I write and draw at home . . . I have a basement studio (I call it The Trench) where I do all my final art. Early on [in the process], I will write and sketch anywhere, but when it comes time to do a dummy and the actual art, I work in The Trench.

The "Trench" - I love the image and name. How long have you been writing and illustrating?

I signed the contract for my first picture book, Henny, in 2012 and it was released in 2014. I hadn’t formally begun pursuing kidlit until a relatively short time before that. I had toyed with the idea of illustrating children’s books for a while, but didn’t really get serious about it until I submitted my portfolio to the NYC SCBWI conference in 2012. It was from there that my agent found me. The Henny book deal happened a few weeks after that at the SCBWI conference here in Western Washington when my now art director at Simon & Schuster, Lucy Cummins, happened to see the dummy. It all unfolded kind of fast!

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

Most people don’t know that my last name was Rose. Early on, I couldn’t decide whether to use a pen name, or my pre-married name, but ultimately decided to use the whole thing: Elizabeth Rose Stanton

And, incidentally, I am related to Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She and I both married Stanton men who are ancestrally related, so this makes us in-laws, of sorts. AND, like ECS, I use my pre-married name as my middle name, for what it’s worth ;)

That's a fun anecdote and a wonderfully tough, persistent woman to be related to. Bub (releasing 1/16) is your third book. How is it different from your other books? [Henny (2014) and Peddles (2016)].

Bub, for a change, is not about a farm animal . . . he’s the middle child monster in a little green monster family!

Who or what was the inspiration for Bub?

Bub is the combination of two story ideas I had— one about an ill-behaved little monster family, and the other about a middle child. My editor at Simon & Schuster suggested I put the two ideas together . . . and out came Bub!

How fun that the impetus came from your editor. Do you feel you have a specific style of illustration? What is your favorite medium and colors?

I don’t think I have a specific “style” — it’s basically what happens when I story-tell with pictures. I have grown to love traditional watercolor but, historically, I worked in chalk pastels, pen and ink, and gouache. For colors, I lean toward the blues and purples, but always use a palette that I think suits the story. I have a specific watercolor palette that translates well for print.

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

The character (which means the illustration) almost always comes first for me, then the story starts to build. When I get stuck, I draw. Basically, it involves a dance that goes back and forth between the writing and the drawing, until it ultimately gets tweaked into a dummy. As for which is the hardest, writing or illustrating, the answer is—whichever one I’m working on at the time!

Ha! That sounds familiar. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?

My favorite is John R Neill, who illustrated the Oz book series written by L. Frank Baum and, later, by Ruth Plumy Thompson who took over the series after Baum died, most of the illustrations are exquisite pen and ink drawings. (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the first and most famous, was illustrated by W.W. Denslow, whose drawings I don’t particularly care for.) The Oz books were hands-down my favorite books. When I was growing up, we really didn’t have many picture books, apart from the Little Golden Books and some of the Dr. Seuss books.

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?

Ha! A hard question since my books are a bit like my children.

Henny of course has a special place in that she was first.

Peddles, currently the “middle child” aptly tries hard. It was fun painting all those pigs!

I think Bub was the most challenging in that there were certain visual transitions that required a little more attention . . . as well as multiple characters and details in the book that had to be painted over and over.

Wow, written revisions are hard enough. I can't imagine having to repeatedly redraw the illustrations. Is there something you want your readers to know about Bub?

Bub is the quintessential middle child. He’s a little monster caught up in the middle of a boisterous little monster family, neither seen nor heard, until he takes charge and decides it’s time for things to change.

I think, at its core, Bub is a story for everyone, not just the middle child; it’s for anyone who has felt the impact of family dynamics . . . positive or negative.

What has been the most frustrating aspect or period of time as an author/illustrator for you? Any advice for aspiring or struggling authors and/or illustrators?

The most frustrating part of being an author/illustrator is, for me, two-fold. First, it’s the enormous pressure that comes from doing so much support and promotion for a book. It sucks time away from the creative part. Second, publishing is a slow business; there’s a lot of hurry-up-and-wait. It can be a little daunting at times. My advice for those struggling is to, of course, keep at it. But I do believe that if someone really wants to do this kind of work, they will . . . in spite of all the ups and downs. I like to quote Maurice Sendak, which sums it up for me, “I do it because I can’t not.”

How very true., the stories just refuse to let you go. Any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

I recently signed a contract with Simon and Schuster for another picture book. It’s another farm animal, Cowie (although Cowie is not a cow ;) ). Cowie will be the third companion book to Henny and Peddles. Of course, this now truly makes Bub a “middle child!”

Okay, I am intrigued. I can't wait to see who/what is "Cowie." Is there anything about writing, illustrating, or publishing you know now that you wished you had known when you started? Or anything you’re glad you didn’t know about in advance?

I’m glad I didn’t know about all the promotional activities expected of authors and illustrators, and especially glad I didn’t know about how much we are expected to stand up and talk in front of people. I still find this a bit nerve wracking… but of course I do it. Honestly, when Henny was released, I didn’t have a clue. My learning curve has been very steep!

What is your favorite animal? Why?

I’ve had animals my whole life, both dogs and cats. I love all animals, but I have to admit I am partial to cats and, in particular, Scottish Fold cats. They are quirky and sweet, and rather more like user-friendly monkeys than cats.

Thank you, Elizabeth. It was wonderful to chat with you.

Thank YOU. It was a pleasure!

Be sure to check out the #PPBF review of Bub this Friday.

To find out more about Elizabeth Rose Stanton, or get in touch with her:

If you are in the Northwest area, be sure not to miss TOMORROW's book release event:

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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