Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Writers Wednesday

Today's featured guest is the very talented author and illustrator Cotey Gallagher sharing her new children's picture book, Have You Ever? Cotey's book is a humorous look at language and I'm guessing children of many ages will enjoy the clever wordplay.  Enjoy!

How did your interest in writing for children develop?
I was in college and took an intensive book illustration course taught by Lydia Dabcovich. I had always loved children’s books, and classic fairy tale stories; but before this class, had never really thought about children’s literature as a career choice. Seeing her accomplished work really inspired me to broaden my horizons and do something I really loved.

How does your career as a writer influence other areas of your life and vice versa?
Writing is something very new to me. I have always been the “pictures” in the picture book; the “art” to someone else’s “words”. Writing my own children’s book has been a learning experience. It has made me appreciate other writers, and the work that they create tenfold. What motivates me most right now is to watch my ten year old son as he sits at my computer, emulating me by typing up his own short stories. It is pretty awesome.

What do you do when you are not writing?
I spend a good portion of my time on artwork, whether it be for fun, or work. I also really enjoy crafting, making handmade ornaments is one of my “loves”.

Briefly, what's your book about?
Have You Ever? is a children’s picture book that explores sentence structure, grammar and alliteration in a humorous way. There is no true storyline, just a series of ridiculous, tongue-twisting sentences with equally silly illustrations. For example, “Have you ever peeked at pickle-eating porcupine prancing on a park bench?” The fun is taking the most random of things and placing them in a sentence together and making it come to life with the illustration! I even added a fill-in activity page at the end, much like a Mad-Lib, for children to create their own silly scenario!

What inspired you to write the book?
In 2013, I was asked to illustrate a series of books that depict the 4 seasons of my home state (Vermont). The author was self-publishing, and I found the whole process fascinating. I had always wanted to write and illustrate my own children’s books, but I felt like I was out of the game for too long and wasn’t sure how to get “back in the saddle” so to speak. The experience made me realize that there are many avenues besides traditional publishing, and if I spent the time and effort, I could create something all my own. This inspired me, and pushed me through to keep creating.

What are your current/future projects?
I am currently finishing up my 2nd self-published book “The Literally Illustrated Collection of Idioms, Metaphors and Euphemisms”. It is a collection of these “figures of speech” accompanied by silly, literal illustrations. Each sentence also includes a definition to what the idiom, metaphor or euphemism is meaning to convey in speech. It is a subject I have always wanted to explore, and wanted to find ways to make it kid-friendly and educational at the same time.

What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine?
I have a notebook with sentences, sometimes paragraphs of random ideas that I think of. When I go back to it later on, I decide if it something I can elaborate on, or if it needs to be neglected. I have always been more of a word-nerd than a writer. I love language, how we structure our thoughts to sentences. I love big words, advanced vocabulary, and I am not afraid to use them in my children’s books. I think it is important for children to hear advanced vocabulary even at an early age. The more a child hears them through read-aloud, the more likely they are to incorporate them into their own day to day language.

What book(s)/author(s) have influenced your writing and how?
I admire the way Fred Gwynne makes humor out of some complicated rules in the English language. “The King Who Rained” is one of my current favorites. I have also always been influenced by the Amelia Bedelia books. Since I was a child myself, I found the silliness of taking words and phrases “literally” to be an extremely entertaining subject matter.

What part of the writing process do you find most challenging and how do you deal with that challenge?
I find the initial “idea” process the most daunting; getting something on paper is difficult for me. As I said before, I am an illustrator by trade, so I have found untraditional ways to come up with what to explore in writing works best for me. Sometimes I make lists of random words in columns, then I pair the words up from the different columns to see if the idea strikes something with me. This is a method I use in creating ideas for my artwork.

Anything else you'd like readers to know about you and/or your book?

Expect to see more from me. I have the fever now, and I don’t think I will lose motivation any time soon!  

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