Blog Interview with Critter Lit.com
Where do you live?
I live in a small town, Media, southwest of Philadelphia, PA. It’s a lovely Philly suburb with a thriving downtown with shops and restaurants. Water is pronounced “Wooder” and you can order a cheesesteak “Wit or Witout (cheez whiz).”
When did you know you wanted to write and illustrate picture books?
I loved everything about art class – the burlap and glue collages, the linoleum prints, and the smell of the Tempera paint. In pursuit of this passion, I went to art school where I took all sorts of fine arts classes. I loved being in the art room, and there was one other special place where I loved to be—the school library. After working odd jobs after art school that weren’t very gratifying, I reconsidered my career options and remembered the joy of my time spent in the school library. I went to grad school to become an elementary school librarian.
Being a librarian is my bread and butter, a profession that I love. However, my true passion is illustrating and writing children’s books. It wasn’t until later after my kids went to school did I really pursue my dream of writing and illustrating for children.
Tell us about your road to publication, what did that involve for you?
Every Monday (sometimes it’s a Tuesday), I participate in a self ritual of “Marketing Monday” where I send out a portfolio query. Most often I hear crickets from my queries but one day I got a, “yes, we are interested in having you write and illustrate an early reader graphic novel.”
Can you share a bit about your process?
I set a timer for six minutes and write down as many ideas as I can in my sketchbook. I choose one or two of the ideas and then sketch very loose thumbnails on a storyboard. I write a script to go along with the thumbnails so that my editor can figure out the sketchy thumbnails. Once the script and thumbnails are approved, I start working on the character sketches and tighten up my thumbnail sketches.
What do you do to shake the rust off or get new ideas?
I don’t allow my mind to stew and obsess about a story. Allowing only six minutes for an initial idea helps my ideas stay fresh. That being said, I have several manuscripts that I have stewed over which are now shelved and waiting for me to see them with fresh eyes.
Anything you can’t live without while you write/draw?
Podcasts. My favorites are mysteries, docudramas, swindlers, and sci-fi.
Any authors and/or illustrators who inspire you?
Melissa Iwai, Dan Santant, Judy Byron Schachner, Patrice Barton, Jennifer Hansen Rolli, Monica Carnesi, Michael Rex, Jennifer E Morris, Zachariah Ohora, Maurice Sendak, Steph Fizer Coleman, to name a few!
Dream project to work on?
I would love to illustrate and write an early chapter book - much like the Owl Diary series and to write and illustrate a book for babies and toddlers. I would also love to license my illustrations and my surface pattern designs so that I can see my illustrations on cards, fabrics, and gifts. I would love to illustrate for Highlights Magazine and continue receiving assignments for Ladybug Magazine. Oh and I like to garden so I would like to have a flower garden with flowers that are showie and beautiful and give away bouquets to everyone - currently my garden is a deer smorgasbord.
Tell us about your debut book.
Bella & Blue: Bella meets Blue is a graphic early reader series that celebrates life's everyday struggles, silliness, and surprises. Eight year old Bella has anxiety. Small things aren't so small for Bella. But with the help of her colorful dog, Blue, and her grandma, Gigi, who has a flair for all things French and over-the-top hats, Bella can handle every day's twists and turns. Blue is the companion children dream of having. He's the therapy dog that plays paddy-cake to calm Bella's nerves & take away her blues. Celebrate the beauty of being blue, in this first of the graphic early reader series, Bella & Blue. Book 1 contains 3 short stories, perfect for the stamina of emerging readers ages K-3rd grade.
What’s up next for you?
I have a six-panel illustration in the Nov/Dec issue of Ladybug Magazine. I will continue to query my art and stories and put myself out there on “Marketing Monday - sometimes Tuesday.” Also, I will plan and dream about next year’s garden.
And last, but not least, favorite 80s movie?
The Breakfast Club - I was (and still am) the Ally Sheedy character - weird by lovable.
Huge thank you to Berrie for stopping by Critter Lit today! Congrats on your debut!
BERRIE TORGAN-RANDALL has been passionate about children’s literature since she was a little girl and has fed her desire by becoming a children’s librarian and by pursuing a career as an illustrator and writer of children’s books. Berrie studied at Syracuse University earning a BFA in Media Arts and Surface Pattern Design. Pursuing her desire to work with children, she returned to school and earned a Masters Degree in Information Studies at Drexel University. As a teacher/librarian and mother of three, Berrie has created and developed her stories drawn from real-life experiences and her imagination. Berrie is the Illustrator Coordinator for Eastern Pennsylvania Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) where she coordinates events and classes for illustrators. Bella & Blue is Berrie’s debut early reader graphic novel.
FOR MORE INFORMATION about Berrie, visit her online at www.berrietr.com or follow her on social media:
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