A Conversation with Anne Rockwell and Melissa Iwai
The Children’s Book Review
Published: May 14, 2013
Anne Rockwell and Melissa Iwai, author and illustrator (respectively) converse about their latest book, TRUCK STOP (Viking/Penguin, May 2013)
A common misconception about the process of creating a children’s book is that the author and the artist work closely together throughout the experience. But in reality this usually only happens in special cases—if the author and illustrator are married or related, or have worked together in the past.
A far more common scenario is one in which the manuscript is acquired by an editor and she/he chooses an artist to illustrate it. This was the case with TRUCK STOP, our new book for young readers.
In this post, we’ll talk a little bit about our experiences, coming from different perspectives, on how TRUCK STOP was created.
Melissa: Anne, how long ago did you write TRUCK STOP?
Anne: Five years went by while TRUCK STOP waited for an illustrator at Viking. Fortunately, when you turned up, I found you perfect! You captured what I would have wanted to do if I had illustrated it myself—strong design and color sense; friendly people, each one an individual.
M: Thanks! I’m sorry you had to wait so long, but I’m so thankful I was chosen to do the illustrations. When Viking sent me your manuscript I was thrilled! I knew of your wonderful work; you’ve written so many great books, and my son has grown up with some of them. While I was working on the project though, we hadn’t yet met. I was communicating only with Nancy Brennan, the art director on the book at Viking. I met with her and Tracy Gates, the editor, before I started my sketches—one of the perks of living near the publishing house. For other books, sometimes I never meet anyone in person, and all communication is done by phone and email!
M: Do you remember what the seed was for the story of TRUCK STOP?
A: Not specifically, but it goes back to the same place where I find inspiration for many of my books—I love to travel. I’m fascinated by the places we claim as our own when we’re on the road. My son and his family, including my littlest grandson, live in China, so I’ve been there twice for extended stays. Even in a village unchanged since the Ming Dynasty (14th through 17th century) at the base of the Great Wall, travelers reach out in friendship. I guess I’m just fascinated by food culture around the world.
M: Thanks again! When we finally “met” via Facebook, I was so relieved to hear that you were happy with the work I’d done on the book. As an illustrator, I always wonder about that. Because, as I mentioned before, usually the author has no involvement in the creation of the pictures for his/her story, so I always hope that what I have brought to the story via the artwork is appealing to the author when they finally see the finished product.
I grew up in Central California which is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the country. When I was doing research for TRUCK STOP, it brought me back to my childhood. Trucks carting all of the food grown in the region (I’ve heard that 25% of the food we eat in this country comes from there!) are ubiquitous, and truck stops abound. During a visit to my mother’s we stopped at a nearby truck stop and enjoyed a nice lunch at the diner inside. They were very nice and let me take pictures for reference.
Now that we’ve finally gotten to meet, Anne, I’m hoping that we can collaborate on a future project together from the beginning.
Add this book to your collection: Truck Stop
Adorable activities for kids: http://www.melissaiwai.com/fun/activity-sheets/
For more on TRUCK STOP, the next blog tour stop is 5 Minutes for Books at http://books.5minutesformom.com/
About Anne Rockwell
Anne Rockwell (www.annerockwell.com) began writing and illustrating children’s books in the 1950s and is well known and loved by generations of children. Her work has won many awards and accolades. She lives in Connecticut.
About Melissa Iwai
Melissa Iwai (www.melissaiwai.com) has illustrated over twenty picture books, and has both written and illustrated Soup Day. A California native, Melissa now lives in Brooklyn, not far from the Brooklyn Bridge, with her husband and son.