Puzzled by Pink Author/Illustrator Interview

Picture Book of the Day

Puzzled by Pink
By Sarah Frances Hardy (Author, Illustrator)

Booktalk: Izzie hates pink as much as her sister, Rose, loves it. So when Rose plans an all-pink birthday party with the guests dressed in fairy costumes, Izzie decides to give her own alternative party in the attic, where the guests will be monsters, spiders, ghosts, and the pet cat. But some powerful magic triggers the appearance of yet another guest – an unexpected one. This will be a party nobody forgets!

Snippet: Today is my sister Rose’s birthday party.
She’s really, really into fairies and princesses and everything pink.

And now for a BONUS! An interview with Author/Illustrator Sarah Frances Hardy

Q. When did you start writing?

A. I’ve always written and had in the back of my mind a dream of writing and illustrating for children (and someday being published). For years, however, I focused more on my career as a fine artist, and kind of halfway sent out manuscripts every so often. It wasn’t until about eight years ago that I realized in order to make my dreams of becoming a children’s writer come true . . . I actually had to buckle down and start writing with a sense of seriousness. I also vowed to myself that I would still be sending out query letters from the nursing home if that’s what it took!

With my newfound sense of purpose, I began going to SCBWI Conferences so that I could learn about the craft of writing and illustrating for children. I wrote several books that I’m thankful will never see the light of day as I continued to learn and improve–AND rewrite and revise.

A few years ago, at my first national SCBWI conference in LA, I was lucky enough to land a critique session with our lovely blog hostess, Anastasia. I had written a book about a creepy little “Wednesday Addams” character, and Anastasia said, “This is a great character, but you have no conflict. Tell me, what is the worst thing that can happen to this little girl?” I answered “Something pink!” And voila! I had the beginnings of a story. I took that seed of a story and ran with it!

Q. Describe your writing process.

A. I always begin with a character, and since I’m an illustrator, I often draw sketches as a jumping off point. Once I’ve got an idea of the look of my character, I spend a great deal of time brainstorming with words. I ask myself dozens of questions, starting with more general things like “What’s your main character’s favorite color? Favorite toy? Who’s her best friend?” Then I get more specific (and I try to get a little weird with my answers–the weirder the better!) “What kind of lunch book does he take to school? Has he ever had stitches? Why? What does she keep in her favorite hiding place? What would she do if someone found it?”

After I’ve filled up several pages of a notebook with detailed character traits, I look for ones that are unusual and I ask myself “What would a character with these traits want or love more than anything . . . and what would really mess it up for him or her?” This gives me the skeleton for my story which I flesh out with words and details.

Then, when I feel like my narrative is in pretty good shape, I storyboard my manuscript using 32 blank rectangles on a piece of paper to represent a standard 32 page picture book format. I draw in stick figures on the storyboard and use it for lots of planning before I start doing any sort of detailed sketching.

After I have a complete storyboard, I do more refined sketches that I use to put together a book dummy that can be printed out on standard paper and gives a pretty good representation of what the book will look like.

But the main thing that I do during each of these steps in my process is REVISE. Constantly. Until my book is sent off and out of my hands, I consider it a living document that I should morph, mold and change until it feels exactly right.

Q. Tell us about your latest book.

A. My latest book, which is actually my debut, is called PUZZLED BY PINK, and it’s the one that Anastasia critiqued for me at a conference (by the way, if you go to a writing conference, ALWAYS sign up to have your work critiqued!). It’s about a little girl named Izzy who prefers spiders and skeletons to tutus and tiaras, and her little sister Rose won’t let Izzy come to her birthday party because she refuses to wear a pink tutu. Izzy huffs off and has her own party in the attic with her own friends–monsters, skeletons, spiders, her invisible friend– until her sparkly sister ballet leaps into the room and wrecks everything.

It’s kind of a “Wednesday Addams meets Fancy Nancy” kind of story!

Thank you for having me!

I’m so pleased you could visit, Sarah!

Readers, you can follow Sarah’s blog here and for a fun birthday party inspired by PUZZLED BY PINK, go to the party page!

STEM Friday is coming!

STEM Friday is coming! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

If you blog about science or math books tomorrow,

come share your link or a STEM haiku of your own!


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