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Blog: This Writing Life


  • Writer's pictureMelissa Stoller

3 Question Interview - SANDY STEEN BARTHOLOMEW

Today, I'm featuring the incredible writer and illustrator Sandy Steen Bartholomew! Sandy brought her unique artistic vision to our book, READY, SET, GORILLA! (Clear Fork Publishing, 2018). It was a pleasure collaborating with Sandy and I hope we'll work together again! Here are Sandy's thoughts about stories . . . creativity . . . and connection.

STORIES – Discuss the inspiration for your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.

My studio is packed with toys, all kinds of books, and lots and lots of sketchbooks and notebooks! Ideas are always flying. When I can catch them, I try to jot down the basic ideas and do a little sketch. Sometimes it backfires - like a scrap of paper that says "old people on sushi rolls" - um . . . what!? Other times, I draw a comic strip to explain the concept and that can end up expanding into a whole book! I've been working on a picture book about kids who really ARE pigs, and another about a little girl who will only tolerate things that are white. Both are based on my real life. Not that MY kids are pigs!

My kids think I'm weird, but I have a secret superpower . . . I can see things around me that no one else sees. It's like a giant piece of tracing paper is over the whole world. I see the same scene as everyone else, but with extra images, dialog balloons, redesigns, strange creatures. Yep. Best not to admit all that, right?

For the story Melissa wrote - Ready, Set, GOrilla! - she imagined Gorilla racing his friends on a racetrack. As I created the characters, their personalities took over and changed the story. A Gorilla racing a Penguin? How would that work? How could a Gorilla who cheats - almost lose to a waddling penguin? Penguin would need to have some kind of an advantage . . . penguins can SLIDE really fast! Aha! It's not a racetrack, it's a playground! And we're OFF!

CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?

I live in a stewpot of creativity. My home is covered with murals, post-its, creatures, dragons . . . pens and paper everywhere. My kids and I have our art dangling from wires and walls. I've written and illustrated a pile of books about creativity and Zentangle (meditative pattern drawing). For years, I owned and taught at a "creativity general store." I did workshops on everything from eraser carving and rubber stamping to Zentangle. For the last few years I was completing a graduate program in Applied Cartooning. Lately, I've been getting too distracted by grown-up concerns - I need to find a more qualified "adult" to take on that stuff so I can draw more comics and picture books! I also love to create murals, carve stamps, needle felt little creatures, and read YA books, picture books and graphic novels.

CONNECTION -- How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?

Like horses, tigers, bears - I have immense respect for kids. They're terrifying and can eat you up in one bite! When I was younger I was an exhibit designer at a children's museum - I have seen this actually happen! But kids also have really great ideas and my daughter is an excellent Art Director and Character Designer. We've worked on a bunch of comics together. I really love reading and drawing with kids.

I belong to an illustrators' group, The Book Dummies. We critique each other's work and talk about Legos. I wish we could get together more often. I'm also a member of the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Actually, I've been a member, on and off, for over 30 years! I read a bunch of blogs and take some online classes . . . If . . . WHEN I get some of those "grown-up concerns" dealt with - then I will start going to conferences and retreats again! I really miss taking hands-on workshops too. I'm a junkie for learning new techniques and playing with different media and technology. For now, I try to attend some of the visiting artist lectures at the Center for Cartoon Studies - there's a lot of exciting crossover between comics and kids books!


Sandy Steen Bartholomew is an author, illustrator, cartoonist, mixed-media artist, and a Certified Zentangle® Teacher. She runs an Etsy store (Bumblebat) and a studio in her converted barn (Beez Ink). She is inspired by juicy, jewel-tones and rusty-crusty, peeling, earth-covered things. Magic and mystery, bits and pieces, and weird little creatures. Sandy lives with her two kids and a cat in their colorful, mixed-media house in Warner, NH.


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