Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Children's Authors and Illustrators Interview - Wende Essrow



It's time again for another interview with an author/illustrator as part of my Children's Authors and Illustrators Interview feature.  This month I'd like to introduce you to my good friend Wende Essrow!  She is author and illustrator of Paintbrush Dreamer and her latest children's book, If You Listen to The Trees.

I met Wende at a very serendipitous point in my life and it was my introduction to her that lead to me publishing my first book.  Wende visited the East Aurora Art Society meeting one cold February night to share her latest picture book with us.  I was immediately smitten with Wende and wanted to learn more about how she got published.  She readily shared everything she knew with me and we became fast friends over the last three years.  I can't wait for you to meet her!   Below is my interview with Wende that took place over coffee and e-mail.


You have been an inspiration to me ever since I met you at the East Aurora Art Society meeting three years ago when you published your firstpicture book Paintbrush Dreamer.  Who are some people who inspire you?

I have been inspired by many authors and artists over the years. One author that I love is Sigurd Olsen. He has written beautiful books about his solo travels in North Country areas. I also love to solo hike and explore. Olsen's capacity to bring his reader along for his adventures at hand is exceptional. I also refer back to my childhood fairytale collection, The Fairytale Book (by Golden) illustrated by Adrienne Segur, a true master of beautiful fantasy illustrations. There are so many beautiful picture books I could go on forever. One book, The Whales' Song by Dyan Sheldon and illustrated by Gary Blythe is another favorite. I actually had the distinct pleasure of corresponding with the author who kindly volunteered to review my first manuscript.  I also received a beautiful letter from France from the illustrator. I was so overwhelmed by the art I wrote to the publisher who forwarded my letter directly to the artist. The artist wrote back a beautiful letter which I cherish and have kept in the book for over 25 years as a reminder to always try to connect with my reading audience in a personal way.

 The Whale's Song, an inspiration

 Wende's childhood fairytale book

What made you decide to become and author/illustrator of picture books?

I have always painted and written poetry and kept a journal. When my children were younger I would read bedtime stories and make up stories as well. My youngest son is a graphic artist and for my birthday decided to give me the gift of his time. He called and said Mom, "It is time you share your stories with a greater audience. I always loved them and I want you to learn how to design a book so you can share them." He basically encouraged me to put together a story and helped me work it into a manuscript. I loved the first project, showed to an indie bookstore owner and he said, "you have something very special here." From that point on, with a project in hand I met with a publisher and the journey began.

And that book was the Paintbrush Dreamer, right?    Yes!

You have both authored and illustrated picture books, which do you enjoy more, the writing of the stories for picture books or the creation of the illustrations?

I love to write. I always have and always will, as it is a part of my spirit, it grounds me and allows me to celebrate all that moves me. There is so much beauty, so much happiness in being alive, and of course sometime there are obstacles that need to be overcome. It is with a pen and ink that I have survived many challenges and celebrated my gratitude for all the beauty that surrounds us. I have to say both my writing and my art are tools for me to express the inner joy, the sense of wonder, the sheer amazement in this thing called, life. I admit I love writing as well as painting and it depends on my mood. Writing flows, illustrating a thought takes some planning and execution skill, thus I need to be very focused to paint. I love both forms of expression and my state of mind dictates what I can best accomplish in the studio on any given morning.

You have told me you have been writing and journaling a long time, do you have  special place that you like to go to when you write? 


I have done most of my writing on a ratty old green couch in my art studio with my muse, Charlie a beloved old dog by my side. We have what I call our coffee dates in the early morning and that is when I write. The studio is surrounded by woods and there is a creek that I can hear when the windows are open. It is really cold in the studio so I try to get a fire burning in the woodstove. I am a morning person. I usually do some painting later in the afternoon after a long walk in the woods. I need to be outside for awhile under any weather conditions to get ready to settle down and paint. There is something about hiking or xcountry skiing and listening to the wind that allows me to concentrate and sit still long enough to work on an illustration.

Can you share a picture of your art space with us?

Can you share with us where you get inspiration for your stories?

My inspiration comes from nature. I have always loved to be outside exploring. Whether I am hiking, skiing, canoeing, I am hypersensitive to the light and colors of the natural world as well as extremely observant of wildlife. This has always been the case. I feel more at home in the middle of nowhere surrounded by woods and listening to the sound of wind in the treetops than I do whenI am inside even my own house. Winter is my favorite season. When I study the geometry of an individual snowflake or look at the muted pastel colors of a winter sky I feel an abundance of joy. It is this sense of awe that inspires me to write and paint.

You are also a very accomplished photographer, what role does photography play in your book creation process?

I sometimes take a small pocket camera to record a particular scene or detail along my outdoor trails. I began to share a few of these shots that are useful in developing paintings from multiple references. Over the years with the advent of social media I have gathered an audience for my photography as a separate art form. I am currently working on a coffee table nature photography and poetry book for adults at the same time I am working on a new children's book.

(You can follow Wende's photography on Instagram at @Wendesworld.  Here is a sample of the work you will find there.)

Do you have any sage advice to offer someone who is thinking about getting into picture books?

Regarding advice to anyone aspiring to write a children's book, do it for love of your subject. There is a likely chance you will not make a fortune, but if you have the opportunity to share a piece of your soul, that will make you "richer." I suggest starting with a small local publisher and keep trying. If no one is interested in publishing your work, self publish it and share it with family and friends.

Thank you for sharing your art journey with us Wende:)  You can find Wende's books at her website