Friday, September 20, 2013

Sup? The Fabulous Iza Trapani's Sup. That's what!

Please welcome my BBF and the fabulous multi award-winning author/illustrator Iza Trapani. Iza’s first book ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider’ has sold over a million copies. Her illustrations whoosh me straight into the storybook world before I even have a chance to read a single word. (I wanna be an illustrator! If only I could master the straight line.) Seriously folks, if you’ve never experienced one of her adaptations of well-known nursery rhymes you have missed a lot. She brings her readers along on a completely new journey of these classics. She has written/illustrated over twenty books and illustrated books for other authors.
She’s here today to talk about her newest book Little Miss Muffet. I was so happy to review it for her and if you didn’t read it you can find it here.
Also, don't forget to comment for a chance to win a copy of Little Miss Muffet. I'll announce the winner Monday, Sept. 23rd.  I think I'll mention to the kids that whoever washes the most dishes over the weekend can draw the winner out of a hat. BWA HA HA HA! I'm so EVIL!!!!! ;-)

Iza, it is so good to have you over today. You know how much I love your work. Please tell us about your work day.

Thanks so much for this interview, BBF! (bestest best friend.) Typically, my work day begins with breakfast in bed (which my husband brings up each day- lucky me:-)  I use this time to do social networking- and there are days when I become so engrossed in reading the wonderful blogs I subscribe to, leaving comments, sharing, etc.,  that I’ll realize my husband is long gone and it’s 8:30 and I’ve been at it for close to two hours! Then I’ll hop out of bed, take my dog for a good, brisk walk then head to my studio. I’ll spend the rest of the day writing or illustrating, and whichever it is, again I will become totally immersed, breaking only to respond to emails or a  few quick games of FB scrabble, maybe a stretch or two on my yoga mat or a change of the laundry, or a wrestle with my dog, then a quick (usually standing) lunch and I’ll finally stop at around 6:30, head to the kitchen and cook dinner. It’s only fair!
How long does it take to write and illustrate your books?
The writing varies. Sometimes I can conceive a story in a few hours.  I wrote a rough draft of The Itsy Bitsy Spider on an hour and a half bus ride. Other  times it may take months or even years for an idea to germinate. But generally, once I have  a plot, I can write a story in a few days. Of course, most of my stories are under 500 words. And then there are many days or weeks of revising, fine-tuning. Getting the meter right is one of the biggest challenges. Rhyming verse has so many constraints, but ultimately, there is always a way to make it work. I have learned to easily dispose of lines that I was fond of. Nothing is precious. There is always a way of saying something differently. I use a thesaurus and sometimes a rhyming dictionary if I am at a loss for words. Walks help me when I get really stumped.
The illustrations take me about six weeks for the storyboard and dummy sketches and four to six months for the final watercolor paintings. When I am working on a book, I work every chance I have, including weekends.  The early stages of illustrating are the hardest: Creating a storyboard, developing the characters, working and reworking the dummy sketches. I go through a lot of tracing paper at this stage. When all the sketches are revised and approved, I start my watercolor paintings. This is my favorite part. I love color!
Which comes first the text or the drawings?
The text comes first, but I envision the illustrations as I write and will often change the text tif it doesn’t suggest good imagery. I will do a rough storyboard as I write to know how many verses  (so far all of my books have been written in rhyme) I will need and what lines will be on each page.

What writers/illustrators have inspired you?

Oh my, where to begin? Ok, I’ll start with the one and only Dr. Seuss whose preposterous humor and playful rhymes have delighted me since I was a child and continue to do so. I love Margaret Wise Brown’s heartwarming stories and Beatrix Potters gentle stories and art. Other author/illustrators high on my list are Marc Simont, Trina Schart Hyman, Leo Lionni, Holly Hobbie, Janet Stevens, and Judy Schachner. Some of my favorite children’s poets are Douglas Florian, Judy Sierra, Mary Ann Hoberman, Margaret Mahy, Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Kate Coombs..The list goes on and on and on and keeps growing...So much talent out there!

After you wrote your first story titled ‘What Am I’, did you receive rejections before you finally had a “YES!” (I’m guessing you did.) :-)

YES! Of course! It happens to all of us- even Dr. Seuss (29 times for his first book.) So, aspiring authors- please do not give up!!!

Describe your writing style in five words. (Hard isn’t it?) I ask you this question because someone asked me one time. 

Ridiculously hard! Do you know how long I’ve been at it? I could have written a whole book in less time! :-)
And I am not sure if you mean the style of my work or my process, so I’m doing both:
Style (as I hope others perceive it): Sweet, funny, playful, gleeful, hopeful
Process (as I know it): Ardent, focused, elated, frustrated, dogged
And I wonder if you wanted a complete sentence instead of just adjectives, so here’s this: I’m a baffled rhyming fool! :-)

I love the complete sentence addition. :-)

What would your eight-year-old self say to you now? 

Dobrze sobie poradziłaś...(I emigrated to the US from Poland when I was 3 months shy of my eight birthday, so I was still thinking in Polish then.) Loosely translated it means, “You done good.” :-) 

Iza, do you have any advice for all us aspiring writers about this road we’re on?

The best advice I can give is to keep writing and honing your craft. Do it because you love it, because it brings you joy and fulfillment, because the creative pull is so intense you have no other choice but to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and get those words down. Yes, dream of publication, but realize that most published authors worked hard for many years before selling a book. Writing for children is much harder than most people think. Exult in your writing, but keep a critical eye. Do not get too attached to your words. This is especially true of rhyming verse, where rhythm and meter are critical. A clever or beautiful line is worthless if the meter is off. Read your stories aloud, or have someone else read them to you. The rough spots will jump out. Take time away from your work and come back to it with a fresh eye. When we are too close to our work, we can not hear the flaws. Time away really helps. Or have a critique buddy or a group read your story or poem and give you objective and constructive feedback. Or, if you can, hire a professional to review and/or edit your manuscript.
Above all, do not get discouraged by rejection- especially in these difficult and competitive times. Rejection is not a reflection on you, personally. Keep in mind that it is just one (or a few) person’s opinion, or that the book may truly not be right for the publisher’s list. Or, worse case scenario, your story may need  a bit more work. So accept the challenge! Go back and make it as good as you can. And if you can’t make that story work, write another. Do you have any idea how many unpublished manuscripts published authors have filed away? A lot!
Read lots of book in your genre. Join SCBWI, if you haven’t already. There are so many great blogs out there that offer information and inspiration. Keep writing. Keep improving. Tell your stories in a fresh, new way. Find your voice. We all want to hear it!

Oh wow, BBF! That was awesome. I sit here reading your answers and I just marvel at your talent, focus, and determination. (Having a hubby who brings breakfast in bed is such a blessing! SCHWEET!) 
Oh hubby dear…
To be continued y’all. *wink*

You can visit Iza over at her place.  She welcomes you to come and print out coloring pages, bookmarks, word searches, mazes, and so much more. (She just might have some cookies too.)

Or here at her other place.

Linkage to buy Iza’s books:


  1. Great interview. Iza has an awesome husband! Loved learning her writing process. I so admire picture book writers who have to come up with so many book ideas and write with so few words.

    Please let someone else win since my daughter is in high school.

  2. Loved the interview, amigo! Iza, it's great to meet you! Wishing you continued success! :-)

  3. Hey Natalie! I'd say her hubby is awesome. Mine is gonna shape up. *wink* *wink* I will let someone else win. Iza is incredibly dedicated and that's what it takes! :-)

  4. Hey amigo! I'm glad you stopped by to meet Iza. I'm putting your name in the hat because you have that sweet grand baby!

  5. That's right, don't get attached to words.
    Good interview and congratulations, Isa!

  6. Hey Alex! Those words can go as long as there are better ones to replace. :-)

  7. Great interview. Nice to meet Iza. I admire Picture Book writers as they have to convey an entire story in as few words as possible.

  8. LOL. A little evil is good when it comes to kids, right? (At least you're offering yours a reward. Mine have to labor without payoffs. Mwahahah!)

    If ever I become a picture book writer, I'm gunna stalk Iza and learn everything I can. :D

  9. Breakfast in bed! You lucky girl! Did he bring curds and whey while you were working on Little Miss Muffett?

    In my opinion "Sweet, funny, playful, gleeful, hopeful" is a perfect description of your style!

    I do love your books, Iza. And Robyn, I do love this interview. Nice job!

  10. Thanks everyone for your sweet comments! I see the breakfast in bed was a big hit :-) Yes, my hubby is a good guy, and I am very lucky to have him.

    And yes, stalk me! I am here to help!

    Robyn, again, thank you for featuring me. I am honored and delighted! Mwah!!

  11. Thanks everyone for your sweet comments! I see the breakfast in bed was a big hit :-) Yes, my hubby is a good guy, and I am very lucky to have him.

    And yes, stalk me! I am here to help!

    Robyn, again, thank you for featuring me. I am honored and delighted! Mwah!!

  12. Iza, I learn something new with everything I read about you. I love the description of your day. It sounds like heaven to me, to be able to work just on your books and nothing else. HEAVEN, I said!!!!

    Robyn, your questions are FANTASTIC! What a fun interview!

  13. Thanks for the words of encouragement and sharing your process. It's so interesting to read how you work! Great interview Robyn!

  14. Super interview, ladies! I love hearing how authors organise their day. Congrats, Iza. I look forward to readinv your books.

  15. I like the "describe your writing process in 5 words!" :D

  16. Fab interview, girlfriend! Iza is so tremendously talented. I have that same Mother Goose book she's holding and I also immigrated to North America when I was 8 - and I love Beatrix Potter and Douglas Florian is my buddy! We have so much in common...LOL!

    This was fun! Thanks, Robyn and Iza!

  17. Wonderful interview, Robyn and Iza! Iza, I always love hearing more about your process - so interesting to know how another author works, especially one who can also illustrate! I also really loved your 8 year old words to yourself even though I couldn't pronounce any of them :) (Robyn, no need to put me in the drawing because I already have a signed copy of this wonderful book :))

  18. I was blessed enough to meet Iza when she read BEAR WENT OVER THE MOUNTAIN at The Carle last October. She brought along samples of her impressive portfolio, and when she says a lot of tracing paper, she means a LOT of tracing paper!

    Fun and fabulous interview Robyn - thank you!

  19. You are all great! Thanks so much for your kind comments! xo

  20. This was such an amazing read. As I read how Iza goes about creating, I was visualizing myself having a similar work day. Oh, the places dreams go. I'm excited about Iza's new book. This was such a good interview. I've learned a lot about the author of Little Miss Muffet. Continued success to you both.

  21. Your husband is a sweetie Iza!

    Love this "The best advice I can give is to keep writing and honing your craft. Do it because you love it, because it brings you joy and fulfillment, because the creative pull is so intense you have no other choice but to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and get those words down."

    So true! I have moments between frustration and rejection where I think, I can't do this, but I HAVE to do this because I love it. Thanks for the encouragement Iza! :)

  22. I love this interview! Such fun!
    What a great name - Iza Trapani. It has a ring to it!

  23. A supberb interview.
    I loved reading more about you, Iza. :-)

  24. Thanks everyone for your lovely comments. I am so glad you found it interesting and that I offered some encouragement!

  25. I am a bit late but I thoroughly enjoyed this interview with Iza!

  26. Thanks for the interview, Robyn. It's so nice to be introduced to new authors (new to me, that is).

  27. Robyn,
    Thanks for the terrific interview post. Iza, thanks for the inspiration.

  28. What a great interview, I enjoyed every minute of it. Thanks for sharing this, Robyn.It's good to meet you, Iza.

    Robyn, you always do such a wonderful job with these interviews. Keep up the good work!

  29. Iza has such beautiful illustrations! It was so fun to learn about her writing and illustrating process. I have read one of her books so far and loved it- and now I will have to read the rest!

    Iza's days sound so nice- especially the breakfast in bed. :)

    It was great learning what her 8 year old self would say to her. My husband is half Polish (his mom moved to America when she was 11, but her brothers and later her sister were all born and raised in Poland). We have been back to visit two separate times to visit my husband's aunts, uncles, and cousins. What a beautiful country!

    Powodzenia Iza! :)


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