Interview with Author/Illustrator Anna Alter

Anna Alter grew up surrounded by beautiful books and is delighted that it is now her job to make them. She attended the Rhode Island School of Design, where she studied illustration, then quickly began her career in books at Houghton Mifflin Company in the children’s book design department. After learning the ropes, she began submitting her own stories and illustrations to publishers and has been creating books for kids ever since.
Anna’s books have been selected as a CCBC Choice best book of the year, Bank Street College best book of the year, Junior Library Guild selection, Texas 2×2 Recommended Reading, and twice been included in the Society of Illustrator’s Original Art Show.
In addition to writing and illustrating children’s books, Anna has taught art and book making to audiences of all ages: she has worked as a preschool teacher, held art classes for grade schoolers, and taught a course on children’s book illustration at the Montserrat College of Art.

Since this blog’s about offering inspiration to writers and artists, my first question for you is, do you have a favorite quote? If so, why is it your favorite?

I love this quote:

“When you write don’t think, listen.” -Madeleine L’Engle
It is so easy to over-think the writing or illustrating process. The times when I’ve been the most happy with the results of my efforts have been when I stop weighing decisions in my head and let myself get totally lost in what I’m doing. It requires some thinking of course, but its almost like the thinking is the framework you make to hold up the real work of listening to your creative voice.
If you could go back in time and give yourself a piece of advice, what would it be?
Relax. Don’t sweat it. Things will work out one way or another. Life continues to get more rich and interesting whether or not you get what you think you want.

What did you want to be growing up? Now that you’re an author/illustrator did this come as a surprise?
I’ve wanted to make books since I was fourteen, before that hmm… I guess I’ve always known deep down that I wanted to be an artist of some kind. And I’ve always known I wanted to be a mother. I am constantly surprised and grateful that I’ve managed to do both things.

In your writing career, who’s had the biggest influence on you? What did they do to inspire you?
All the books I loved growing up made such an impression, reading them felt so freeing. Beatrix Potter has always been one of my favorite author/illustrators, I just loved to pour over the tiny little worlds she brought to life. She is one of the reasons I love using animal characters.
Are there ever times you feel your creative spark dying? If so, how do you light it back up?
I get the most stuck when I worry about what other people will think and how they will judge my work. That is a sure fire way to kill your creative spark. When I get in that mindset, I try to talk myself down by focusing on what is enjoyable about what I’m doing. Which reminds me of another quote I love:

“Achievement is the byproduct of a happy life, not the goal of one.” -Elenore Roosevelt

Do you have a favorite illustration you could share with us that has a story behind it?
My favorite illustration from my new book, A Photo for Greta, is the one below.

The image popped into my head before I had really hammered out the story and yet seemed to fit through all the stages of revision, while just about all the other images around it changed. To me it sums up Greta’s spirit.

I too agree that this illustration sums up Greta’s spirit, my eyes were glued on it while reading A Photo For Greta. Thank you Anna for sharing your wisdom, good cheer, and work with us. I feel so honored to have you today!

If you would like to find out more about Anna you can visit her site here. She also has a fabulous blog titled Painting Bunnies and frequently blogs on a group blog called The Blue Rose Girls.

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