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February 14, 2017

Welcome Author-Illustrator Amy Nielander!

Last summer I had the opportunity to go to Highlights Bootcamp for picturebook makers. It was a four day retreat in the Pennsylvania countryside for authors and illustrators to ‘workshop’ their dummies and manuscripts.  Among the many amazing people I met there was author-illustrator Amy Nielander. I thought a great way for you to get to know her and her work was to feature her on the corndogart blog! So here we go…

Amy Nielander art

Illustration by Amy Nielander

  1. How did you come to be a children’s book illustrator?

A very round about way. Writing and illustrating were hobbies for me when I was a kid. I enjoyed drawing, reading, making things and typing stories out on our typewriter. My mom was also a powerful storyteller and I was mesmerized by her ability to capture (and hold) our attention. Under the belief that making art would not open many doors for me, I went into Product Design at CCS. I loved it. Design fed the creative problem solving side of me and I was constantly drawing and experimenting with ideas. After graduation, I lived and worked in Chicago. I eventually moved back to Michigan when I got married and worked in the automotive industry. We started a family shortly after and I switched gears to focus on writing and illustrating. I knew I had more to give creatively and felt that was the best place to do it. I made a picture book dummy using a story my mom wrote and we queried it together with my illustrations. Unfortunately we had no takers, but I really enjoyed that process. It was like a giant puzzle to me. I spent time studying picture books, character design, taking writing classes until I eventually made some headway with my own stories. My first picture book, THE LADYBUG RACE, was published by Pomegranate after becoming a finalist in The Silent Book Contest.

Amy Nielander art

Illustration by Amy Nielander

  1. What are the most important attributes of an illustrator, particularly illustrating for children?

I believe a children’s picture book illustrator needs to be playful, patient and wildly perceptive.

  1. Does having your own children inform your stories or influence you in any way?

Absolutely. Seeing their expressions and reactions to situations (especially what makes them laugh!) helps me gauge whether a story is kid-friendly enough or not.

  1. What resources (books, websites, people, classes, etc.) have you found most helpful in developing professionally?

So many! Becoming a member of SCBWI was my first major step in learning about the publishing industry. As a member I applied for various competitions/grants along the way to build my portfolio and create deadlines for myself. I also attended conferences and was a member of the Nevada Mentorship Program. Online resources for writing have been Writers Digest University and Anastasia Suen. A book I reference often is Second Sight by Cheryl Klein. I attended a Picture Book Workshop for the first time through Highlights Foundation this summer and loved it. Drawing-wise I took a couple of character design courses through Schoolism in the past and found Stephen Silver to be an inspiration. I still enjoy their interviews and have a yearly membership so I can continue to push myself. I’ll also tune into All the Wonders podcasts from time to time, collect The Horn Book and look forward to my PW Children’s Bookshelf emails. I also have been getting to know more artists (like YOU!) through my own weekly blog, The Blob Blog.

Amy Nielander art

Illustration by Amy Nielander

  1. What do you think the purpose of a picture book is? How does your work fulfill that purpose?

I think the primary purpose of a picture book is to connect with a reader. I try to create characters and situations a child can identify with. If I can achieve that connection with some laughter along the way, I’ll be happy.

  1. What is your dream job?

This one!

 

Thanks so much to Amy Nielander for her candid (and helpful!) responses.

You can follow Amy at her social sites:

Her Website:  www.amynielander.com  

Twitter: @nielanderamy

Facebook: Amy Nielander

 

 

 

    

 

 

 

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