By Lindsay Bandy
Lindsay: Hi there, Ponder, and welcome to the Eastern Penn Points Café. Thanks so much for taking the time to join us, and for your generous offer of a signed copy of Animal Fair to a winning commenter! As we settle into our booth to chat, what might you be drinking?
Ponder : Iced coffee with extra milk.
Lindsay: Are you snacking on anything?
Ponder: No need for a snack, I just finished my husband’s blueberry pancakes for Sunday breakfast.
Lindsay: Yummy! Maybe my husband will take a cue from yours….(hint, hint, Honey, are you reading this?)
Well, first off, I’d like to let you know that my daughter really enjoys Animal Fair! What made you decide to illustrate this classic rhyme? Was it a favorite of yours from childhood?
Ponder: I love it when kids enjoy Animal Fair. I remember everyone singing the song on crowded bus rides to summer camp. The song is full of all kinds of animals doing silly things. I love illustrating anthropomorphic animals so when an editor friend of mine mentioned that I should find a classic like it to illustrate, I jumped on it.
Lindsay: What are you working on now?
Ponder: Right now I don’t have a contract but I’ve been researching on writing and illustrating non-fiction to add to my repertoire. I’m also taking part in art exhibits, producing prints and oil painting as well as keeping up with promoting my books.
Lindsay: That sounds like enough to keep you busy for now! Best wishes to you on your non-fiction projects! Speaking of keeping busy, I know you do a lot of school visits and programs with kids. Can you tell us a little bit about how you do your presentations, and what aspect you enjoy most?
Ponder: Because my work is visual, I have a Power Point presentation and Drawing demonstration. I show how illustrators do more than produce pretty pictures, how each book requires a different kind of thinking cap to produce the right kind of art for the story. I finish with a favorite, a drawing demonstration where I have the audience participate in choosing animals and activities to draw. I’m always thrilled at how drawing looks like magic to the kids. I think what I like the most is making a mark on the kid’s lives.
Lindsay: Sounds wonderfully fun! As writers and illustrators, we’d love to hear a little bit about the submission process from you. Can you give us some details about how you got started? Any advice or encouragement?
Ponder: First I need to explain that I got started as an illustrator and have only “authored” one book, Animal Fair, so I’ll explain how I got started in children’s books.
My first children’s book illustration job was a surprise. I began my career in pursuing all kinds of illustration work but found no work for children’s book publishers. It seemed my style was not right for children’s books. Later, when I acquired a “Rep”, artist’s Representative, she sent some mailers to a few children’s book publishers with no results. I forgot about children’s book publishing and my Rep retired. Then at least a year later, I got a call from Richard Jackson. As it turned out, he had sold his company, Bradbury Press, to Macmillan and was working for them as an editor, he had kept a sample of my work for later!
He started me with illustrating a black and white chapter book and moved me up to a few full page full color picture books before I illustrated Sailor Moo. The rest is history.
My advice for authors and illustrators is this; you may have talent but you need to research in order to hone the talent into a profession. Research how to write and/or illustrate and how to present your work. Research in bookstores and libraries for children’s books with the kind of style and genre you like and think you can produce, research publisher’s contact information and submission policies.
You can’t ask others to do your work for you but you can get information and help from the SCBWI, Children’s Book Council, and published author’s and illustrator’s blogs and websites. You can take part in conferences and events to find editors, art directors and agents. And if you truly have produced good work with the help of research you are on your way to success.
Lindsay: Thanks so much for sharing your story, Ponder. What a journey! And what inspiring and practical advice for us all to apply.
Now, just for fun, imagine for a moment that you go to flea market and buy an intriguing old lamp. You get home, polish it up, and—poof!—a genie puffs out and offers you the choice of any three artistic masterpieces from any museum in the world. To keep. Forever. What might you choose?
Ponder: That’s a hard question because I have so many favorites. I would say a Vincent Van Gogh painting for his vivid imagination with color, a Chris Van Allsburg piece for his imagination with form and a Maurice Sendak piece for his imagination altogether.
Lindsay: Love your choices! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us, Ponder. You’ve been a delight, and we can’t wait to meet you on August 17th!
Now it’s your turn, EPA Community, to say hi to Ponder. Comment to enter yourself to win a copy of Animal Fair at the Industry Scoop event. Hope to see you there! You can visit Ponder in the meantime at http://pondergoembel.com.