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…
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.
I believe a children’s picture book illustrator needs to be playful, patient and wildly perceptive.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks so much to Amy Nielander for her candid (and helpful!) responses.
Her Website: www.amynielander.com
Facebook: Amy Nielander