Wow, time flies! Nearly half a year ago, I spent happy hours in a car with Elizabeth Dulemba as we traveled together to a school in Clanton, Alabama. We had been hired as the visiting author and illustrator of the day. We were a bit early for checking into our hotel rooms, so we found some great shopping nearby where Elizabeth bought that DIVINE wrap you see her wearing below and on her School Visits page. (In fact, the video was shot during that same visit)
I wish had transcribed all the wonderful things we talked about during that car trip and our marvelous meals together. Ah well, in lieu of sharing that conversation with you, I'll share this one, instead...
Hi Elizabeth! Congratulations on the "birth" of SOAP, SOAP, SOAP! Having enjoyed many hours with you in an authentic Mexican restaurant, *I* already know the answer to this question, but my readers might not, so can you tell us a little something about your decision to learn Spanish when you took on this project?
I took French in High School and college (and was an exchange student in Paris), but don't get much chance to practice in Georgia. Here, it's all about Spanish, which I've wanted to learn for years. My 40th birthday was looming and I LOVE Jack Tales, so when Raven Tree Press approached me to illustrate Paco and the Giant Chile Plant, a bilingual adaptation of "Jack and the Beanstalk," I jumped at the chance. Here was my excuse to finally learn Spanish! I signed up for classes at the Latin American Association in Atlanta thinking, no biggie, I'll take lessons. Little did I know what a life-changing impact the LAA and the people there would have on my life!!
Luckily, Paco did so well (it won a Moonbeam Children's Book Award Bronze Medal), my publisher wanted more. It seemed a natural fit to do another Jack Tale adaptation - this time with a slightly less well-known story, SOAP, SOAP, SOAP (now also bilingual: SOAP, SOAP, SOAP ~ JABON, JABON, JABON!)
SOAP isn't your first multi-cultural book. How did you happen to find yourself in the multi-cultural market?
It's funny, since Paco I've received many, many jobs creating multi-cultural illustrations - I must have done something right! In fact, the three books I did for the ParentSmart KidHappy™ series feature Hispanic, African American and Asian characters. I love creating multi-cultural characters - the different bone structures are challenging, so perhaps they slow me down a bit to make sure I'm getting everything right.
I know you work on a computer, (I've seen that marvelous 2-screen setup on your desk) but to me, your work is very painterly. It also has a sort of collage quality to it, as though you cut out the images and collaged them onto paper. Can you talk a little bit about how you give your work its distinctive look?
Thank you! I make a point of making sure people can't tell how I work, and try hard to include as much texture as possible (challenging in the 2-D digital world). That's where the collage elements come in. To me, texture (and color) with all their various nuances are downright fascinating!
You're a marvelous, energetic school presenter who really connects with students. What do you like students to take away from your school presentations?
You are too kind! I have a blast sharing my work with kids - probably because I still am one. But I'm a kid who had a dream and made it happen. I hope I get that across the most - that anybody can make their dream come true with hard work, dedication, and pure stubbornness! (Yes, there is a good side to that trait.)
I know you're also a savvy marketer with a large email list of subscribers to your newsletter. Can you offer any advice to new authors looking to promote themselves and their books?
I have to admit I stumbled into the secret - which is to GIVE. I was already writing articles for the SCBWI Bulletin, teaching at the John C. Campbell Folk School and basically trying to pay it forward as much as possible. But when I started giving away coloring pages on my blog (for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to share with their kids), things really took off. The collection has grown quite large over the last two years and people can now sign up to receive Coloring Page Tuesday alerts in their in-box every week. I love seeing the new subscriptions come in - from libraries, schools, children's hospitals, even nursing homes - it's a thrill to know my work is being shared to spread a little joy like that.
Thank YOU, e! (You have probably noticed by now that Elizabeth likes to just go by "e" in her online posts.) You can read more about our visit to Clanton, and see photos of "e" in action THIS ARTICLE and photo collection published by the Clanton Advertiser.
And if you can't get enough of "e," (I can't!), click HERE to see her full SOAP, SOAP, SOAP blog tour schedule