Mini Interviews – Juana Martinez-Neal (a.k.a. The Woman Behind the Curtain)

mini interviews 2013If you haven’t had a chance to read the latest shout-outs from the merry band of mini-interviewers (Molly Idle and Laura Jacobsen), then this post will not seem late.  But it is.  That’s because I didn’t have an amazing woman by the name of Juana Martinez-Neal sending me a gentle and thoughtful reminder to start thinking about publishing my latest blog post.

Juana Martinez-Neal : flowerpicking

Also to give you an update, if you hadn’t guessed Juana is the Woman Behind the Curtain of the Mini-Interviews, the one tying together loose-ends, bringing peace and order to a slurry of questions by our merry band…

“When am I posting?”

“Wait, I thought I was interviewing her!”

“I need help!  When I move my mouse up, the cursor goes down!!  I think I broke my computer!!!”

Juana Martinez-Neal : Rosies Rhino

But Juana takes everything in stride, with grace and unending patience…

ME “Hi Juana, listen-I broke into your studio, I knew you wouldn’t mind, and I printed some art samples and then the toner caught on fire somehow and everything burned”

JUANA “Oh that’s ok!  I was thinking about remodeling-you just saved me the trouble of demo!” *

Juana Martinez-Neal : el colegio

You see?!  Unshakeable!!!

So thank you Juana for all and everything and beyond what you have done!  We are so blessed to be in your company!

* As of this day this situation has not actually occurred.  


Mini Interviews – Antoinette Portis

Mini Interviews - Antoinette Portis

My 5 year old daughter was genetically designed to be a Princess.  But at times all that genetic engineering goes askew and she has to be a super hero while at the same time maintaining royal propriety.  Or she’s a mermaid.  All this multi-tasking of identities is why my daughter found such a kinship with Princess Super Kitty by Antoinette Portis.  Her books are so soothing to look at while at the same time twisting what is in the norm of children’s publishing.  For that reason all of my kids have found an Antoinette Portis book that resonates with them.  For me, I look at her books and think “Now why didn’t I think of that??”

This Mini Interview may give you some perspective on why Antoinette Portis is beating us to the punch!

Mini Interviews - Antoinette Portis

Please describe your career as an author-illustrator in 5 words:

My favorite job so far.

 Which books, that were your favorite when you were little, have had the greatest influence on your work?    

I am not the kind of illustrator I admired most when I was little. I liked complicated illustrations. My grandmother had an amazing collection of books illustrated by Arthur Rackham and he was my idol. I wanted to draw pretty princesses and fairies that looked like his, but that desire didn’t stick.

But I also loved the Provensens. The book Animal Fair has images in it I’ve remembered forever. I think the graphic look of Mary Blair’s work has stayed with me, too.

I went to Japanese language school on Saturdays for a few years in elementary school and I developed a life-long affinity for the traditional Japanese less-is-more aesthetic. The mountain in Not A Box is a reference to a Hokusai woodblock of Mt. Fuji.


Please share an instance in which you had an idea or experience that started out small, but took root and grew to become a book. 

The book I’m illustrating right now started as a little observed moment. I was sitting in a café and a mom walked by holding her small boy’s hand. He broke away from her to come over to see a ladybug sitting on the windowsill in front of me. His mom grabbed his hand and tugged him back on their way. He staggered along next to her in that toddler way, just barely keeping up.

I was struck with the tension between a grownup’s agenda and a child’s. A child’s desire to wander, imagine and explore–and the grownup world’s impingement on this desire, is a continuing theme in my work.

Do you ever hide little images, names or personal details in your illustrations? Please give us a peek

I don’t hide personal details, necessarily, but I do add things for children to discover.


In A Penguin Story, the penguin is bored with her limited world. So, to not make it boring for the reader as well, there are visual clues, jokes and hidden details to keep things interesting.

It’s a game to find the large, little and twin penguins on every page. Not something you would notice on the first reading, but there to discover.

There are other little surprises, too. The reader sees hints that the main character doesn’t—we see the orange plane before she does. Kids love this. There’s also a scene that looks like the rising sun between two mountains, but the page turn reveals it’s not.

Mini Interviews - Antoinette Portis

Daily routines are important for both writers and illustrators. Could you describe your typical work day, and tell us the one little thing you absolutely cannot begin your day without (besides caffeine)?

I have an unstructured way of working. I kind of roll with the day’s demands. The one thing that’s pretty consistent about my routine is that I often work till 2 or 3 in the morning (or 4 and 5 as a deadline nears). The world is quiet, there are no email or phone calls coming in. It would be more convenient to be a morning person but I seem to be bio-rhythmically set up as a night owl.

My year divides into two sections: the thinking up new ideas part (writing texts and making book dummies) and then the other part when I have a book illustrations due and I kick into full-time illustration mode.

It’s hard to have a well-rounded life when pushing to get a book done. To finish my first few books I was a total hermit—I barely left my studio for months. Now I’m getting better at keeping my whole life going even when I’m on a deadline. I’m less terrified now, and have more confidence in my process.

Mini Interviews - Antoinette Portis

Your books are so amazingly different – do you ever talk yourself out a of good idea because it skews the mainstream industry? 

Since I make a living writing and illustrating books, whether a book is viable in the marketplace is certainly a consideration. I don’t write to the market, but I do decide which of my many ideas to pursue based on some sense (experience and intuition both) of what my editor might be interested in from me.

I have lots of ideas. I’m not overly precious about them. I spent years in advertising. There, your brilliant ideas can be tossed out because the strategy changed—then it’s go back and try to be brilliant again. This was good training. I got used to not-taking-personally an ever shifting set of demands.

I run new ideas by my writing group. Some ideas die there. Or at least go into hibernation.

It takes a lot of commitment to bring a book to fruition so it’s necessary to have at least a glimmer of hope that other people will respond to it. Nevertheless, there are points when I get obsessed with an idea and work on it, knowing it probably won’t go anywhere. Sometimes I just have to get an idea out of my system.

I have folders full of ideas that I hope will make it out there someday. (But if they don’t, there are always new ideas coming down the pike.)

In the end, no one really knows what will sell and what won’t, so you can’t edit yourself too much. I waited a long time to make picture books, and I’m doing it for the love of it.

I work on ideas that fire me up.

Antoinette Portis made her picture-book debut with the best-selling Not A Box, an American Library Association Seuss Geisel Honor book, and one of the New York Times Ten Best Illustrated Books of the Year. She was a recipient of a 2010 Sendak Fellowship. Antoinette graduated from UCLA with an art degree, then worked in advertising and graphic design. She was a creative director, then a VP, at Disney before she bolted to do what she had always wanted: be alone in a room making picture books. She lives in Los Angeles. Froodle, her newest book, comes out in spring 2014.

Mini Interviews - Antoinette Portis

Check in often with Antoinette by visiting her website and her Facebook page!

Mini Interviews – Bob Shea

mini-interviews 2013

One question:  Are you eating while you’re reading this?

You might want to reconsider.  Eating while reading the following interview may result in choking, turkey-lodging of the trachea or accidental spewing of food across friends and family.

You have been warned.

Let the interview commence!!!

Bob Shea is one of those author/illustrators that you can’t really read out loud to your kid in the library.  I mean you can - you aren’t necessarily rendered mute when you hold his books, but you can’t really get the same affect reading out loud in a quiet conservative library.  You really have to give his books 110% when reading out loud.  He writes BIG, not like 72 pt font BIG but FUN BIG.  You see, Bob Shea has been able to blend enthusiastic bold images with exuberant story lines and with a sprinkling of adult humor.  There is always going to be a moment when you’re reading his books to your kids and they won’t understand WHAT you’re laughing at.

But you know.

Bob knows.

So this combination results in loudness deemed unacceptable by librarians.  Best bet, take them home to read or just buy your own!

Mini Interviews - Bob Shea

Please describe your career as an author-illustrator in 5 words:

Procrastinate, procrastinate, procrastinate, procrastinate, panic.

Which books, that were your favorite when you were little, have had the greatest influence on your work?

Mini Interviews - Bob SheaSTINKY CHEESE MAN by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. I wasn’t little at the time, I was sort of a grown-up. I was littler than I am now, probably by about thirty pounds.

Wandering around Waldenbooks (remember those? No?) the cover immediately caught my eye.  Then I read the title and actually picked up the book. A pretty big commitment already. I thought to myself, “Are you really going to crack this open and do some bothersome reading here in public, on your own time? You know what’s going to happen, it’s never going to be as good as the cover. Just put it down and go get a soft pretzel.”
I don’t like to be told what to do, even by myself, so I opened it in defiance. It’s perfect. I was fresh out of design school, so the typography blew me away. The type was as important as the illustration. The illustration was like nothing I had seen before. Back then there weren’t a bunch of Jon Klassen’s, Peter Brown’s and Zach Ohora’s running around making thoughtful, modern books. It was slim pickings at the time in the kids book world, this changed everything.
Oh, and it was FUNNY. It was impossible to find a funny book for any age. Have you been to the “humor” section of a bookstore? Painfully unfunny.

Mini Interviews - Bob Shea

Please share an instance in which you had an idea or experience that started out small, but took root and grew to become a book. 

On my way to my son’s soccer practice I saw some goats in yard. We don’t really live in a goat’s-in-a-yard kind of town, so it was unusual. also unusual are the goats. Ugly. I wondered if they knew how unfortunate they looked. I gave them my pity and moved on.
At soccer practice I started to notice a pattern of kids deciding who were the best at running, kicking, whatever. He was only six, so I thought it was odd that kids that age already felt the kind of insecurity and petty jealousy that i have woven into the fabric of my daily routine.
I thought about how hard it must be for those horrible goats to hang out with pretty much anything else.
Then i thought about the worst thing that could happen if you are a goat.
A unicorn moves in.
I thought up UNICORN THINKS HE’S PRETTY GREAT before we even got back into the car.
Mini Interviews - Bob Shea
Do you ever hide little images, names or personal details in your illustrations?
Sometimes I hide my social  security and PIN numbers in the books. Only a few have them though. So keep buying them until you find them. Good luck everyone!
Mini Interviews - Bob shea
Daily routines are important for both writers and illustrators. Could you describe your typical work day, and tell us the one little thing you absolutely cannot begin your day without (besides caffeine)?
Here’s what I TRY to do. Lately I have been not keeping up on it though.
I wake up at 5am. First thing I do is meditate for 20 minutes. I stare at a candle and listen to new -agey music. It’s embarrassing. I hope no one finds out. Basically, it’s an exercise to clear my head and control the flow of intrusive thoughts. I’m easily distracted. If I do it for a couple weeks straight it seems to work. Otherwise it’s a lot of candle staring.
Mini Interviews - Bob SheaStaring at a candle and listening to new age music wasn’t emasculating enough, so I started making my own chai. This did two things. First, it gave me a ritual in morning that I had to focus on a task and practice patience. Second, it gave my wife a reason to make fun of me during the day.
“Are you having some chai?”
“That’s nice.”
See what I mean?
Then I work, usually on writing something new until my son goes to school. Then I head into my studio and work on my whatever is in progress. Then I get coffee.
Somedays I ride my bike, or I try and run during the day. Until it gets to cold, then I just eat and complain.
I talk back to NPR as if it’s talking to me and has genuine concern for my opinion. It doesn’t. They sent me a nice hand crank radio once, but I have to send them money every month.
In the late afternoon it’s harder to think of things. So I do non creative things at that time.
I’m not going to lie, sometimes I fall asleep in a chair. All that chai and candle staring takes a toll.
Around six I head home.
I used to be able to work more at night, but lately I am too tired.
Mini Interviews - Bob Shea
Your humor is very evident in your books – Do you write more for adults and hope children will see the humor or what???  Basically how have you found the magic combination of being both humorous for both adults and kids??
Short answer is that I’m simply the vessel through which God works.
Long answer is, “beats me.”
Wait, the second one was shorter.
Uh, you know, I am really just trying to keep myself entertained. I wish it were more impressive than that. My sensibility is appreciated by adults and accessible to kids. It’s just my personality. I’m glad kids and adults both like it.
Sometimes I go too far and I write a book that only adults would like and I throw it in a drawer. I had one where two adorable teeny tigers are unwitting participants in a crime spree. They are let go because they are so cute.
Sure, this is how life really works, attractive people enjoy advantages people like me can only dream about. That’s life. We shield our kids from the important lessons and set them up for a lifetime of disappointment, resentment and regret.
Yeah, I’m just kidding. I did write it, but figured no one would want it.
Mini Interviews - Bob Shea
Make sure to check out Bob’s new book –  Buddy and the Bunnies in: Don’t Play with Your Food!  It’s published by Hyperion and is out in January!

Mini Interviews - Bob SheaBob Shea has written and illustrated over a dozen picture books including the popular Dinosaur vs. Bedtime and the cult favorite Big Plans illustrated by Lane Smith.  Little Brown, Hyperion, HarperCollins, Random House, Simon and Schuster and Dial have all published his work. They are all still in business.  Bob got his start at Comedy Central where he make up stuff and they went along with it.  It was great.  His characters and animations have appeared on Nick Jr, Playhouse Disney and PBS Kids.

Bob spends his days writing, drawing and having “conversations” with NPR.

He’s lucky.

To explore the world of Bob Shea you can check out his website, follow him on Twitter or visit his Facebook page!

Mini Interviews Week 4

mini interviews 2013

It’s a special week.  A week to be thankful, to be merry and to gorge.  Yes, this is the week to overindulge on AMAZINGLY TALENTED AUTHORS/ILLUSTRATORS!  Actually the same can be said for the last 3 weeks – but none the less!  It’s a great week and a great line-up!

mini-interview 2013 Week 4

Zachariah Ohora will be with Juana on Tuesday

Melissa Sweet strolls over to Molly’s on Wednesday

Bob Shea chats with me on Thursday

Maurie Manning will be joining Laura on Friday

Grab another helping of that turkey,mashed potatoes and a slice of that pie while carefully balancing that buttery dinner roll on the edge of that dixie plate and gobble up all the great interviews this week!

Mini Interviews – Matthew Cordell

Some authors’ stories read as if they were giggling quietly to themselves the entire time they were writing.  When I saw the cover of Trouble Gum, the image of a giant pink bubble being blown by a small piglet, I knew I found such a book.  Matthew Cordell wrote and illustrated Trouble Gum.  Matthew Cordell (from my estimation) has fun for a living.   So being the nosy person that I am, I had to include this talented author/illustrator in our Mini Interview line up…
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Please describe your career as an author-illustrator in 5 words:
Still. Figuring. It. All. Out.
richard scarryWhich books, that were your favorite when you were little, have had the greatest influence on your work?
I wish I could point to some really obscure and never-heard-of illustrators as my childhood inspirations, like that would make me sound cool, maybe. However,  I think I’m not too different from most in that I can remember the “classics” being read during my own childhood. Specifically, I can remember being drawn to Maurice Sendak (WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE), Dr. Seuss (GREEN EGGS AND HAM), and Richard Scarry (WHAT DO PEOPLE DO ALL DAY?) as a child. And I still love all three of them. Maybe this still makes me sound cool?
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Please share an instance in which you had an idea or experience that started out small, but took root and grew to become a book.
My first author-illustrator book, TROUBLE GUM, started out with this image I had in my head of a pig who blew a massive bubble gum bubble and it lifted him or her up into the air and took flight. I didn’t have a story to wrap around that image, but I was very much in love with the possibility of making a book that somehow used that visual. I knew very little about writing picture books at the time, so it took me many incarnations of this bubble gum pig story, over the span of several years, before it actually, you know, took flight. But eventually one of those incarnations landed into the hands of my lovely editors at Feiwel and Friends, Liz Szabla and Rebecca Davis, and they helped me officially find its way to publication.
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Do you ever hide little images, names or personal details in your illustrations? Please give us a peek
I do! Occasionally, when there’s a place to hide some text or if there’s a background character or element I could use as a tip o’ the hat to someone I love, I’ll take advantage. For instance, on this page from ANOTHER BROTHER, I’ve used these letter blocks to spell out the names of my daughter, Romy, and wife, Julie. These are always fun things to point at at school visits! Kids get into the whole secret message thing.
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Daily routines are important for both writers and illustrators. Could you describe your typical work day, and tell us the one little thing you absolutely cannot begin your day without (besides caffeine)?
Lately I’ve been trying to do some work before doing the actual “work.” Meaning, some kind of warm-up routine to get the creative juices pumping. I didn’t want to put a huge amount of time into thinking about subject, so I decided to start doing portraits of friends, family, co-workers. It’s been a great deal of fun and I love surprising folks with my interpretation of themselves on Facebook.
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Your books are so amazingly different – do you ever talk yourself out a of good idea because it skews the mainstream industry?
There was a time that I felt like I had to be a certain way and do a certain type of book and stick to it. Like I could ONLY do funny books. Or I could ONLY do sincere books. Or I could ONLY draw this way or that. For me, it gets old fast to think that way. So I’m happy to hear that you find my books so different from one another! One of my favorite contemporary author-illustrators, David Ezra Stein, has shown me that each book can be approached completely as an individual and the means of production can flow from within. And this kind of artistic freedom and sincerity… THAT is your style. That is your moniker. Now that I’ve opened myself up to whatever comes, I feel so much more free and able to create without being put in a self-imposed box. I don’t know if it’s good or bad or whatever, but I know it makes me feel better not having to live up to just one ideal or aesthetic.
Mini Interviews - Matthew Cordell
Mini Interviews 2013
Matthew Cordell is the illustrator and author of many acclaimed books for young readers. Though he spent most of his life in small town South Carolina, at the turn of the century he migrated midwest to set up shop in Chicago. It was there that he met his soon-to-be bride, his passion for children’s books, and deep dish pizza.  Matthew is the illustrator of many books including the Justin Case series by Rachel Vail, Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It by Gail Carson Levine, and Toby and the Snowflakes by Julie Halpern. He is the illustrator and author of hello! hello!, Another Brother, and Trouble Gum.  Matthew now lives in the suburbs of Chicago with his talented wife, author Julie Halpern, and their two children.

Be on the look out in 2014 for ROOTING FOR YOU a picture book by Susan Hood with illustrations by Matthew. He is currently working on his third author-illustrator book, WISH, and illustrations for a picture book by Philip C. Stead titled SPECIAL DELIVERY.

Stay connected with Matthew through…

Mini Interviews – David Ezra Stein

Mini Interviews - David Ezra Stein
There are just some books that resonate with you on so many levels…Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein is just one of those books.  I have read this book and reread this book to my kids so many times and with each time the volume level gets louder.  The fighting also increases on who gets to be “Interrupting Chicken”.  How could a book about the telling of quiet bedtime fairy tales from a Papa Chicken to his daughter lead to such uncontrolled chaos?  I’m partly to blame because I love it so much and have a hard time restraining my enthusiasm.
Mini Interviews - David Ezra Stein
I’m also beyond enthusiastic presenting to you David’s answers for the latest Mini Interview.
Please describe your career as an author-illustrator in 5 words:
Injecting fresh air into books. 
Mini Interviews - David Ezra SteinWhich books, that were your favorite when you were little, have had the greatest influence on your work?    
Hmm….I have been influenced by everything interesting I’ve ever seen. But here are a few: Dr. Seuss books, for love of language and wonky world design. Calvin & Hobbes, for its philosophical perspective, sophisticated silliness, and dynamic drawings. Tintin comics, for bright colors, colorful characters, and international adventure. And so many more books, commercials, movies, TV shows, textiles, paintings, and musicals.

Mini Interviews - David Ezra SteinPlease share an instance in which you had an idea or experience that started out small, but took root and grew to become a book.
One of my latest books, Ol’ Mama Squirrel, was a combination of a squirrel scolding me in the park near my house, and the Occupy movement being in the news. Squirrel protecting her babies + outraged activists = picture book? It does if you’re me.

Do you ever hide little images, names or personal details in your illustrations? 
Please give us a peek…

In my 2012 book, Because Amelia Smiled, I was able to put lots of people I know in as extras. My children’s book illustration teacher, Pat Cummings, is seated in the subway scene, at the right hand side, looking at the viewer. My sister and her husband are walking a dog outside in the pizzeria scene, which also features my son’s face on the soda machine. My son is also in Ol’ Mama Squirrel, which is dedicated to him. 

Mini Interviews - David Ezra SteinDaily routines are important for both writers and illustrators. Could you describe your typical work day, and tell us the one little thing you absolutely cannot begin your day without (besides caffeine)?

There’s not a lot typical about my days. I feel like I’m always trying to manage my creativity better. It’s a full-time job to provide outlets for all my inspirations and interests. I’m constantly trying new schedules to harness the day in a more productive way.

I do like to write and storyboard in my local cafe, where I have written and sketched out all of my 11 books. Then I end up in the studio for making my finished art. One thing I almost never skip is Morning Pages, which I got into by reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s part of the spiritual practice of being an artist.

Tomie dePaola once told me that Ben Shahn told him that being an artist isn’t what you do, it’s how you live your life. So I tend to see it that way as well: an ongoing daily practice that is punctuated by published works.

MIni Interviews - David Ezra Stein
Being an admitted “space cadet” do you find that state of mind helpful or harmful to completing a book? (from one space cadet to another)

I would not be able to listen to my inner voice and honor it if I didn’t have the power of daydreaming. It’s essential to me. Winnie-the-Pooh called it a “hummy” sort of feeling when he was getting an idea. That’s how I experience it as well.  

On the flip side, when a deadline comes along I have to be a professional. I have to sit down and work even when I don’t feel like it. Sometimes I even have to do a book idea I am not crazy about, and I have to find a way to become crazy about it.  

Mini Interviews - David Ezra SteinAs a young child, David started out drawing on Post-It note pads his mother, an editor, left around the house. An admitted “space cadet,” he showed an early knack for daydreaming and doodling. His parents and grandparents read him lots of books, which fed his imagination and became a touchstone for his love of imagery and storytelling later in life.  David went on to become a voracious reader and made up stories of his own. Near the end of his time at Parsons School of Design in Manhattan, encouraged by beloved author and teacher Pat Cummings, he decided to pursue children’s books as a career.  After graduation, he was briefly a window display artist, puppeteer and puppet builder, interior and set-design illustrator, and New Yorker cartoonist. In 2006, his first book,Cowboy Ned & Andy, was published by Simon & Schuster. Since then he has published eleven picture books.  David lives in Kew Gardens, NY with wife, Miriam, and son, Sam. When he’s not working on new stories and pictures, he enjoys making music, cooking, running, hiking, and talking with kids and grown-ups about books!

If you’d like to see more of David’s work make sure to check out his site and Facebook page!

If you can’t get enough of this talent, make sure to check out David’s latest book Dinosaur Kisses!

Mini Interviews - David Ezra Stein

Mini Interview: Sean Qualls

Mini Interview with Sean Qualls - Mikela Prevost

The first time I came in contact with the work of Sean Qualls was during SCBWI’s summer conference in 2011 where Art Director for Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers Laurent Linn explained the process of directing artists through the many twists and turns of picture book illustration.  I learned two things from the presentation:

1.  Laurent Linn’s job seemed too large and overwhelming for my little mind to comprehend.

2.  When Laurent Linn showed us the work of Sean Qualls, I immediately scribbled his name down and circled it repeatedly.  His work was so rich in texture and had such graphic shapes, I  couldn’t resist it.

Not only is Sean gifted in illustration but also as an upcoming author/illustrator!  He has been so kind as to share his process in my first “Mini-Interview”.

Mini Interview with Sean Qualls - Mikela Prevost

Please describe your career as an author-illustrator in 5 words: 

Work, work, play, play, work.

Which books, that were your favorite when you were little, have had the greatest influence on your work?
Mini Interview with Sean Qualls - Mikela Prevost
In terms of themes, Golden’s illustrated Bible for Children and D’aulaires Book of Greek Mythology. As for art, I like the comic book art of Bill Sienkiwicz.

Please share an instance in which you had an idea or experience that started out small, but took root and grew to become a book.

My first book as author/artist (pub date to be determined.) A while ago I did a color sketch of a jazz singer. I kept it on my art table for a long time. My agent helped me to create a manuscript based on that sketch.

Do you ever hide little images, names or personal details in your illustrations? Please give us a peek…

In the beginning of Dizzy there’s a scene where Dizzy is being bullied by two other boys. Since that was a reality for me when I was a kid I used the name of street I grew up on in the art.

Mini Interview with Sean Qualls - Mikela PrevostOften times I’ll use my home as inspiration for interior scenes. For instance, I used my kids room in the opening pages of Lullaby.  Sometimes a self-portrait may show up.

Daily routines are important for both writers and illustrators. Could you describe your typical work day, and tell us the one little thing you absolutely cannot begin your day without (besides caffeine)? 

Mini Interview with Sean Qualls - Mikela PrevostAfter getting my kids off to school, I spend some time (usually in cafes) journaling/self reflecting. I also use that time to figure out what projects to spend my time on that day/week. Green tea is my drink of choice.

Your work seems to have a definite love of texture and color-do you build up abstract layers until you feel you’ve achieved the right color/texture combination for that particular illustration? 

Mini Interview with Sean Qualls - Mikela Prevost
Yes. It can be a very fulfilling process getting the color and texture just right – other times more challenging. Recently, I’ve been changing my approach at least for some of my work. I’m always trying to find new ways to keep making art fun and interesting. Most of the art I love combines a strong graphic sensibility mixed with abstraction and textural elements.

Mini Interview with Sean Qualls - Mikela PrevostSean Qualls is an award winning, Brooklyn-based, children’s book illustrator, artist and author. He has illustrated a number of celebrated books for children, including Giant Steps to Change The World by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis-Lee, Little Cloud and Lady Wind by Toni Morrison and her son Slade and Before John Was a Jazz Giant, for which he received a Coretta Scott King Illustration Honor. Sean also created the art for Dizzy by Jonah Winter and most recently Freedom Song (The Story of Henry “Box” Brown) by Sally Walker. His work has received two Blue Ribbon citations from the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books where he was also cited for his “serious craftsmanship” and an “original style.” Qualls has created illustrations for magazines, newspapers, and advertisements. His work has been shown in galleries in New York and across the country. Sean draws inspiration from an array of influences such as movies, television, childhood memories, aging and decaying surfaces, architecture, old buildings, nature, folk art, fairy tales, Americana, black memorabilia, outsider art, cave paintings, collectibles, African art, golden books, vintage advertisement graphics, psychology, mythology, science fiction, music, and literature. He lives in lives in Brooklyn (where you can find him DJing on occasion) with his wife, illustrator/author Selina Alko and their two children Ginger and Isaiah.

Make sure to see even more beautiful illustrations at his site:



The November Mini-Interviews 2013

mini interviews 2013BOO!

Oh so sorry to scare you!  No need to fret or to fear – the Mini-Interview are really quite near!  So gather your bonnet, your kerchief and cap and…

forget it…I’m too high on fun size Twix bars to focus on doing an entire blog post in rhyme.  So let’s just focus on what we know – November - NATIONAL PICTURE BOOK MONTH – and the annual series of Mini Interviews hosted by Juana, Molly, Laura and I!  This year we are focusing our attention on authors who are the illustrators!  The best of both worlds!  To make it extra special we are looking into the “little” things in the lives and work of our author/illustrator interviewees.  Fun, huh?

Here’s  the line up on my end of the blog tour – and honestly-  I cannot believe these talented people agreed to share their wisdom and insight with a crazed fangirl like myself…these people are givers.

Sean Qualls

David Ezra Stein

Matthew Cordell

Bob Shea

Antoinette Portis

A complete list of all 21 of our amazing interviewees (in alphabetical order) can be found here

Make sure to check out all the blogs on this tour EVERYDAY in November.  Missing it is something to fear.

Now stop eating your kids’ candy.

Illustration Friday – Lush

Rainbow Bright - Mikela PrevostAn illustration I did for Babybug Magazine that I felt had a rather luscious background.  When I saw the topic for “Illustration Friday” I imagined two possibilities – a lush rolling field of green or Kristy Swanson describing a yellow leather jacket in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” the movie.  I know I’m in the minority liking that movie but it has cemented the word “lush” into my brain as a great compliment from a vampire-staking valley girl.

An Idea

Bright Idea - Mikela PrevostThis was originally just a little doodle I did in my sketchbook while attending an SCBWI conference. I would regularly go back to my notes and see this doodle and feel like I should do something with it. Since I’m in the middle of doing sketches for a book I wrote I would probably categorize this under Jessica Hische’s most appropriate label of “Procrasti-working”. Hopefully more ideas will come that could shine some light on this book process. And other puns…