Lindsay Ward has a BFA in Illustration from Syracuse University. She has illustrated a handful of children’s picture books including ‘The Yellow Butterfly’ (Bright Sky Press) by Mehrnaz S. Gill, ‘A Garden for Pig’ (Kane Miller Books) by Kathryn Thurman, and the covers of both ‘STAR Academy’ books by Edward Kay (Random House Canada). Lindsay’s most recent books were both written and illustrated by her, including ‘Pelly and Mr. Harrison Visit the Moon’ (Kane Miller Books, 2011), ‘When Blue Met Egg’ (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012), and ‘Please Bring Balloons’ (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2013). She is currently finishing up a new book with Dial Books for Young Readers, titled ‘Henry Finds His Word’, which will be published 2015. You can visit her on the web at lindsaymward.com or check out her blog at respectthecupcake.blogspot.com.
Henry: I have a son named Harrison, but the fact that Lindsay’s book titles feature my name and my son’s in no way influenced me to interview her. BTW, my other son’s name is Josh. Just saying…
For what age audience do you write?
I write and illustrate picture books for children, specifically ages 3-5.
Henry: Me too! Except that I just write. That said, the only thing keeping me from becoming an author-illustrator is a total lack of artistic ability.
Tell us about your latest book.
My most recent book, ‘Please Bring Balloons’, was released in October 2013. One day Emma finds a note tucked in the saddle of a polar bear carousel. It reads “Please Bring” with a picture of balloons drawn below. Emma decides to take the note seriously, just in case. Soon Emma finds herself on a magical adventure to the North Pole full of balloons, polar bears, and lots and lots of dancing.
Henry: I love this. Because polar bear carousel. It reminds me somehow of the mighty panserbjørn Iorek Byrnison from ‘His Dark Materials’. Plus balloons.
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
I always want my readers to feel like the story is still going, even after they have read the last page. Hopefully they can picture Emma and her polar bear on their next adventure. Please Bring Balloons is about adventure, magic, and believing that anything is possible…as long as you have enough balloons.
Henry: “Anything is possible as long as you have enough balloons.” And imagination. Well said!
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
To be honest, I find all aspects of writing to be difficult. I started as an illustrator, which is what I trained as in college. Illustration comes a lot more naturally to me than writing. The desire to write came a few years after I graduated and began trying to get published. I love writing stories that allow me to bring the characters in my head to life, but I still find it incredibly difficult. Each book I do is like learning how to ride a bike again. I don’t have the same writing process with each book, whereas with illustration I’m pretty methodical. However, there are those really amazing moments when the words just seem to fall out of my head and onto the page, effortlessly. It’s rare, but completely incredible.
Henry: Interesting. My experience has been different so far. It’s the “getting published” aspect that is most challenging for me. ☺
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
I never expected to be a writer, so in a way the most powerful lesson I’ve learned as a writer is that life can take you down unexpected paths. I’m so grateful to be working as an author/illustrator, doing a job I absolutely love.
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
I don’t know if this really qualifies as a memorable experience so much as a memorable realization, but the first time I understood that I’m a part of children’s reading experiences was truly eye-opening. It made me realize that in a small way I get to be a part of so many childhoods, and as a child who loved to read, I know how important that can be. If my book has opened new possibilities to a child that didn’t exist before then I have done my job well. My stories get to be apart of bedtime, a rainy afternoon, a visit to the library, and so many other small moments that make up childhood. To me, that’s pretty amazing and why I love my job so much.
Henry: A parent told me that after reading my book ‘Nimpentoad’, her child was willing to eat mushrooms. One small step…
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
This is going to sound completely cliche, but the first piece of advice I would give is write what you know. Every story I have ever written has always related in some way to something I have experienced. I’ve found that when I write what I know, I write a much better story. The second piece of advice would be to believe in your work. You will probably hear a lot of “no” before you hear “yes,” don’t let that detract you from being a writer. We all hear “no.” That being said if you keep receiving the same criticism consider revising to make your story stronger. Sometimes hearing a “no” can be the best thing and helps you get your work to a “yes.” I belong to a critique group with a few other picture book authors and author/illustrators. They are my sounding board. I’m able to work through my ideas, good or bad, to get to the best material to work with. I highly suggest seeking out a critique group or starting one yourself.
Henry: Completely agree. I got a lot of “no’s” before I got my first “yes”. And belonging to a critique group has been tremendously helpful as well.
Do you have any favorite quotes?
“If someone is asleep in bed dreaming, you don’t necessarily want to see [the] bed, but you might want to look at the dreams.” – Quentin Blake I keep this quote in mind whenever I’m working on an illustration. Capture the essence, not the obvious.
Henry: I’m working on a bedtime picture book right now, so I’m all about dreams.
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?
I don’t know how strange these are, but there are always two things I prefer and do: 1. Total silence (no music or anything else like that) 2. I edit by reading my work aloud. It gives me a feel for the pacing and flow of the text.
Henry: That is a great tip for new writers. Read your work aloud. Especially if it’s rhyme.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
The ability to fly. Hands down. I don’t think anything beats that. Seeing the world from above with the wind on my face would be truly amazing.
Henry: Hands down, but arms extended. ☺ I will see you and raise you with X-man Mystique’s shape-changing ability. Because she could become a bird to fly, but many other creatures as well!
If you could have three authors or illustrators over for dinner, who would it be?
This is tough, I definitely have more than three, but if I had to choose… 1. Mary Blair – she is my favorite illustrator. Her sense of color and shape are truly spectacular. Just to have met her would have been an honor let alone spend an evening conversing with her. 2. John Burningham – He is just amazing. I love all of his work and can only imagine the stories he would tell. 3. Ursula Nordstrom – Technically she is an editor, but I would love to have met her. She was so innovative and worked with some of the most amazing authors and illustrators of the 20th century. There are classic children’s books that would not have existed without her.
What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?
The monster from ‘No More Monsters’ by Peggy Parish. He seemed like such a nice monster and that was my favorite book growing up. I always wanted to hang out with him and the main character Minneapolis Simpkin.
Henry: Who wouldn’t love a giant hairy pickle? No one, that’s who. I think mine are the Wild Things from, well, you know.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love to read, bake, play board games (my husband and our friends are very competitive when it comes to board games), and travel.
Henry: Of course, reading is critical for writers. I used to be a board game fanatic. Played lots of historical conflict board games, then transitioned to Dungeons & Dragons, and finally to Warhammer.
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
Can’t say I have ever been asked this question. I guess… Lindsay Ward She lived and loved fully.
Henry: I try to ask some unusual questions. You’re welcome.
Where can readers find your work?
Any chain or independent bookstores and online.
This interview is also posted at the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.