Sunday, August 5, 2012

Picture Book Panel: Antoinette Portis

Antoinette Portis on the big screen (Jon Klassen on the left, Yaccarino's loafer on the right)

Antoinette Portis! I have wanted to hear a talk from her for a long time. Antoinette is not only a fantastic picture-book author and illustrator, she was one of those incredibly lucky Sendak fellows a few years ago.

This may be a portrait of Antoinette in her underoos, but it's also an image from Antoinette's website, it's Princess Super Kitty!
Antoinette's Not A Box, Not A Stick, and A Penguin Story have all received loads of accolades and are covered in delicious silver stickers.

YACCARINO: How do your books start out?

Antoinette: "I tell people Not A Box visited me. It took me half an hour, it just came out... And I thought, this bookmaking stuff is going to be easy!"

"Penguin Story took me 87 drafts."

"I usually write first, but have immediate visual images that I want to write to. I often overwrite, disgustingly! ...But when I make a dummy, I cut cut cut until the pictures have room to breathe."

YACCARINO: Do you ever assign yourself a subject matter?

Antoinette: "For A Penguin Story, my editor asked, do you have a book about penguins? And I said, no, but then I was listening to a woman on NPR talk about Rumi's poetry, which is all about love and longing, and... I took penguins and longing and put them together... if a penguin is in Antarctica, what would they be longing for? There's no colors there, that would drive me crazy..."

YACCARINO: Do you write for a certain audience?

Antoinette: "My writing teacher Barbara Bottner, is a big fan of getting in touch with your inner child. I think mine is about 4 to 6, and when I'm writing or drawing and inner me goes, "HAR HAR HEE HAR HAR" I know this story/art is working."

Antoinette: "I write and then I start paginating it and I realize I've written way too much."

Antoinette says if it can go in the art, even if it's the most lovely juicy sentence, you have to cut it. "Authors: Trust that the illustrator is going to be somebody brilliant and they're going to do something wonderful with your text."

YACCARINO: What about changes to the industry and new formats, digital books and the iPad?

Antoinette: "Whenever a new medium comes up, it imitates the thing it was related to. Like with photography mimicked portrait painting... Everybody is playing around with what they can do with it. Creative people in this room are going to come up with stuff we haven't even imagined and it's going to be thrilling."

"I personally love the picture book form, but I get it—things are going to change, whatever happens, great people are going to be there making brilliant stuff and it's going to be good."

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