"First Looks/First Books" is a new, recurring feature. We will talk with pre-published authors and illustrators, asking them about their goals and dreams, and what they have learned so far working toward publication.
Today we are talking with Annette Hastitate, an up-and-coming graphic novel and picture book author/illustrator. She currently lives in California.
Thank you, Annette, for taking the time to sit down and talk with us. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
As a kid, I loved drawing funny pictures and writing quirky stories, often getting into trouble for scribbling in my notebooks instead of paying attention in class. After I had graduated from the University of California -San Diego, I worked as an Art Director and Buyer for many years at a local gallery. Now I am back on the journey I started as a child, telling stories through my art.
What is your earliest memory of a picture book?
Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Eric Carle. I was introduced to this book in 1st grade on a US military base in Japan. It was too simple for most of the English-speaking students but was perfect for me to learn English. The vibrant colors and repetition brought me comfort.
In Eric Carle's words, “With many of my books, I attempt to bridge the gap between the home and school. To me home represents (or should represent) warmth, security, toys, holding hands, being held. School is a strange and new place for a child. Will it be a happy place? There are new people, a teacher, classmates—will they be friendly?"
How did you come to be an author and illustrator?
Once upon a time, my house was clean, and refrigerator stocked with healthy organic food. Then one day my little dog brought home a flea. It was not just any bug, but a super flea.
Those fleas destroyed my former life...
They were resistant to all consumer pet products, natural and chemical. For weeks, I worked through every suggestion on the internet, resulting in diatomaceous earth covering my house, and everything reeking of Eucalyptus. The fleas persisted and flourished, peppering my dogs' bellies and my children’s ankles with bites.
Even after professional pest service finally eliminated the infestation, I could not sleep. The fleas infested my dreams and subconscious. My life felt like a Magritte painting, surreal and unsettled. To cope, I began to scribbling and painting, eventually creating a story about a small creature causing devastation.
One story hatched into a second, then a third. I became consumed with my stories. I am neither an illustrator nor writer but an artist with stories to tell.
What is your process? How do you go about creating a book?
My ideas come from dreams, other stories, quotes, images and everyday life. When a thought strikes my curiosity, touches my emotions, I scribble it down in my journal. Mostly, I draw sketches, few sentences or words. Sometimes entire stories with characters come to life.
If we were to stop by and watch you creating, what would we see?
My dining room is now my studio. An old plastic party tablecloth now protects my dining table from an explosion of paper, brushes, paper towels, eraser-less pencils, chocolate wrappers, and coffee cups. I have either music or an audiobook to keep me company while I work.
I am either multi-tasking like a crazy lunatic drawing between laundry, cooking and cleaning or entirely absorbed and unmoving for hours, forgetting to pick up my children from school.
Tell us a little bit about your current project.
Selfies by Sumie is a graphic novel about a teenage girl. New to America, Sumie’s selfies make her Internet famous. Even though Sumie’s posts have thousands of followers, she has few real friends. As her English improves, Sumi realizes she is receiving cyber-bullying. Sumie lashes out with the only weapon she has: social media. Can Sumie survive the backlash and find true friendship in the digital age?
I think Selfie's by Sumie is turning out to be more autobiographical than I initially imagined. Having first-hand experience with difficulties of trying to assimilate into a new culture, I have more empathy for my character. Going from child to teenager is a complicated process when you are trying always trying to re-create your identity. I believe most kids can identify with the story.
Were you ever afraid? Afraid to show someone your work? To hit that “send” button to submit it to an agent or editor? Tell us about that.
Writing, drawing, and creating picture books is easy and fun, but taking the next step to getting it published is a whole different story. The biggest obstacle I've faced so far in finding an audience for my stories has been my own inner critic.
Sharing my ideas and art was and still is a scary experience for me. I was taken aback by the insecurities it brought out: "What if it's awful? What if it's not ready? What if I'm not ready? What if I don't have talent or what it takes to get to the next step? What if I say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, will I be exposed as a fraud, will I be humiliated?"
Worse yet, "What if there's no response at all?"
The fear is always there. The doubts never go away. But, it's like being at the top of incredibly high, ridiculously steep slide. If I don't let go, I might miss the most exhilarating ride of my life.
What has helped you the most during this scary process toward becoming published? What has kept you going?
I can't pinpoint one thing. I have received much guidance from within the kid lit community. They are the most welcoming, kindest, generous group of people who are willing to help each other. Being welcomed into their circle has given me enormous encouragement and hope.
Thank you Annette for taking the time to talk with us today.
If you would like to see more of Annette's work or to discuss a project with her, go to her website at: http://ayhashitate.com/