I'm so happy that Constance Lombardo is a guest on my blog today! Her middle grade Mr. Puffball series (Harper/Collins) is hilarious! Here's what Constance is sharing about stories . . . creativity . . . and connections.
STORIES – Discuss what inspires your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.
I was first inspired to write and illustrate children’s books when reading to my baby 15 years ago. Beatrix Potter, William Steig, Tomi de Paolo, and many others re-ignited my love for storytelling in words and pictures.
The idea for my heavily illustrated, middle grade Mr. Puffball series grew out of my habit of drawing my cats. I was writing and illustrating picture books, attending SCBWI conferences and workshops, etc., when one day my cats looked at me and said, “Why not a book about us?” (Communicated through vigorous staring and violent tail flicking.)
Yes, I said, I’ll do it. Since I often imagined speech bubbles over their heads (‘Squirrels. It’s all about the acorns with them.’ Or ‘Why must you hum?’ or ‘Dry cat food again?’) I decided to do a novelty book about what your cat is really thinking. I did a bunch of drawings based on this concept, those grew into multiple panel cartoons, and so on.
And here’s where I’ll mention my fabulous writers group, The Secret Gardeners, which is a source of both inspiration and support. During the time I was working on my cat cartoons, one Secret Gardener said, ‘I’m thinking of doing a graphic novel.’
Aha! My cats should be in a graphic novel! One of my cats in particular, a character who was rising from my scribbles like a phoenix from the ink: Mr. Puffball, aspiring movie star.
The drawings led to Mr. Puffball. My love of movies and Hollywood led to his dream of being a movie star. And excessive reality TV watching has led to my latest book, Mr. Puffball: Escape from Castaway Island (HarperCollins, publishing on April 24!). Though he’s not The Bachelor, Mr. Puffball does appear on Birthday Cake Wars, Feline Ninja Warrior, and Celebrity Castaway Island.
CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?
I love to draw whenever possible and always keep a sketchbook handy. Drawing someone captures that moment for all eternity (or at least until the paper yellows and disintegrates.) It’s also a means to develop character and stories. I feel very lucky to now be a professional author and illustrator…my dream come true!
One way I feed my creativity is visiting art museums. I try to get to NYC every year and always visit a few. Reading new and classic picture books is another source of inspiration.
A different creative endeavor I’d like to pursue more is dancing. I took a bellydance class a few years ago, and it was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. It’s so great to step outside your comfort zone (ie, my drawing table) and try something new and fabulous!
CONNECTION -- How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?
I love to connect to my readers. I’ve done several school visits and Skype visits. During these, I draw Mr. Puffball and/or Pickles, and it’s awesome when kids draw along with me. I hope to do more events where I can meet with kids and encourage them to explore their own creative sides!
Being part of the KidLit community means so much to me. Writers, illustrators, booksellers, editors, art directors, I’ve met so many fascinating, friendly people who are so generous with their knowledge and encouragement. SCBWI has been an important part of my journey to becoming a published author/illustrator, and I appreciate all those who have helped me along the way, and all the friends I’ve made through that organization. I’m also lucky to live in Asheville, NC, a town famous for independent bookstores and a strong community of local writers.
To interact with writers and illustrators in a super fun way, I organize a monthly Writers Games Night, at the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar (the name says it all.) My favorite game is Pictionary, which I should be much better at. Sadly, four years of art school is not an advantage when it comes to Pictionary.
Constance Lombardo began drawing when she was 10 years old, inspired in part by the Illustrators Annuals her dad brought home from the ad agency where he worked, and in part by the fact that her sister did a drawing and got lots of attention. She is the author/illustrator of the middle grade Mr. Puffball books published by HarperCollins. They are: Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat to the Stars, Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat Across America, and Mr. Puffball: Escape from Castaway Island. She is represented by Lori Nowicki of Painted Words. Plus she likes cats.
CONNECT WITH CONSTANCE:
Facebook: Constance Lombardo Author/Illustrator