Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Interview with author/illustrator SHANDA McCLOSKEY

Shanda McCloskey’s first book DOLL-E 1.0 has just been published - Congratulations! I remember when she showed up at SVA in illustration class - she had big talent from the start! But then it takes commitment and persistence to successfully get a book from dream to reality. I’m so happy to share with you this Q&A with Shanda. Enjoy and be inspired to work hard for your dreams!

It is exciting to hear about a book's journey to publication, especially a first book! How did Doll-E 1.0 get started?
The idea for Doll-E 1.0 came from watching my two-year-old daughter pretend that her doll was a robot doll! I knew in my gut that this idea might be a good one with the empowered girls movement and girls in STEM being hot topics. I also knew from experience (because I looked pretty hard) that there were no robot books with real girl appeal! The robot books I found may have had girls in them, but they still seemed to be created with boy readers in mind.

My daughter just turned 8, so Doll-E 1.0 took 6 years from idea to real book!

What was your favorite part of working on this book?  
My favorite part of making this book was working with others (much more experienced than me) to make it its best! My agent (Erica Rand Silverman), editor (Andrea Spooner), art director (Jen Keenan), publicist (Siena Koncsol), etc. all added exquisite parts and solutions to the book and promotional efforts that I would’ve never thought of or could do alone! I truly enjoyed the Little, Brown team and it seemed as if they enjoyed working on this book too, which was extremely cool :)

Also, school visits are really special! I didn't realize I would treasure them so much until I tried one!

And the most difficult part?  
Life has a way of really getting messy sometimes, and at the time I created this book, I had some serious eye health issues arise that affected my sight. The day to day frustration of working with impaired vision was definitely the hardest part to overcome.

Where do you live and what is your studio like? What are your art materials?  
I live in Ball Ground, GA, which is about an hour north of Atlanta. I live with my husband, two daughters, and our dog in a very small house. My studio is a wall in my living room parallel/behind the couch. It has a long white desk with a computer and drawing space with a “clothesline” of sketches and inspiration above it. Beside the desk is a large Ikea armoire where I store my two printers, large scanner, and art supplies (which are mostly 6B drawing pencils and watercolors).

What were you like as a child?  Did you always draw and paint since you were very young?  
I was known as the best artist in all my classes and grades. That was a huge part of my identity. I loved it. 

How did you decide you wanted to be an author and illustrator of children's books? 
Picture books have constantly lured me through my lifetime. I bought them at the book fair when I was a kid when I was “supposed” to be into chapter books, and then I found myself just having to own various books through the years before I even had kids. But when I found myself unfulfilled in a teaching job, things became clearer. I really wanted to figure out how to become a children’s book illustrator! (I had no idea I would ever be an author too at the time :)

Did you have some rejections along the way? What have been some of the ups and downs?
Of course I did! I’ve been pursuing this path for about 10 years now. I would attend a conference excited to show my new work, feeling accomplished only to end the conference with a dose of reality that there’s still so much work ahead of me. But it always felt productive, and eventually my work was “ready” to be published. 

I also was rejected by several agents and publishing houses along the way. And when my work was really “ready” I got several bites!

What are some of your other projects that you are currently working on?  
I’m currently working on a companion to Doll-E 1.0 called T-Bone the Drone! It features a boy character this time and his drone. So. Much. Fun!

Is there anything you learned back in class that has particularly stayed with you?
Monica really opened my eyes to the possibility of being an author-illustrator instead of just an illustrator. I remember her saying that she makes her own illustrating jobs by writing her own stories. That resonated with me, and I must say that doors started opening up for me when I had a dummy proving I could do both!

Do you have any special words of advice or encouragement for illustrators/writers starting out now?
If you can write and illustrate, put them together in a dummy! THAT combination is what got things rolling for me. I started setting it beside my portfolio at SCBWI conferences and bringing it to paid manuscript critiques. I updated my dummy for each new conference with what I had learned from the last.

I was thrilled to see Shanda up from Georgia at her NYC book signing:

and follow her on Instagram: @shandamccloskeydraws and Twitter: @ShandaMcCloskey


Shanda McCloskey said...

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Monica!

Greg said...

Shanda, just read you book to my five and seven year old girls for like the fifteenth time. The younger one requests it the most, and her mind was pretty blown when I explained all the things around the house that have power supplies. Great learning opportunity! Thanks for publishing an awesome book!