We are thrilled to welcome uber talented Deborah Marcero to Writing with the Stars. Deborah is the illustrator of Twinderella (written by Corey Rosen Schwartz) and the author and illustrator of Rosie and Crayon, Ursa’s Light, and the newly released and stunning My Heart is a Compass.
Can you tell me about your process? What comes first, the writing or the pictures, or both at the same time?
Sometimes a story idea comes first that I need to write out before drawing anything, and sometimes an image will come first, and the story will spring from there.
My Heart is a Compass has been getting a lot of buzz, including a starred review on Kirkus and recognition from Illinois Reads. What has been the most surprising moment so far?
The most surprising moment so far besides simply holding the book in my hands and realizing how much my whole heart is in there, was having the incredible opportunity to create this book with the team at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
How do you find inspiration for your writing and illustration?
I’ve found that nature, stillness, love, friendships, my childhood, and even small moments serve to inspire my creative spirit.
As a former teacher, what is your best memory of a child learning to create?
I was leading a writing workshop in a fifth grade classroom in Chicago Public Schools, modeling how to write a fictional story. To scaffold the instruction, we wrote a story together as a class. All I did was ask the questions and direct the plot. They came up with a main character, what he wanted, his struggle, how he overcame the struggle, and how he triumphed in the end. The entire class was so excited and engaged, I could barely believe it. They were almost jumping out of their seats, raising their hands with ideas to share. They cared so much about what happened to this character they created that they were all 100% invested. It showed them the power of story, and what could happen when they wrote something they cared about. The best part was when, the next year, students in that class came up to me and said, “Remember, Ms. M., when we wrote that story about Jerome?” I will never forget that.
I love clever character names. In Ursa’s Light, the main character is a little bear named Ursa, and I’m assuming this is a nod to the constellation Ursa Minor. Did you have that idea first, or did you name your character as the story progressed?
Yes, the name Ursa was a nod to the constellations (as she wanted to fly and ends up becoming a shooting star), and Ursa also means “Bear”. I love when a word or play on words can mean more than one thing. I ended up naming my character Ursa after several drafts of the story developed.
Who are some of your favorite artists or influences?
Frida Kahlo, Edward Gorey, Eric Carle, Georgia O’Keefe, Mary Blair, and Peter Sis.
What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?
Listen to that quiet voice inside, and do not compare yourself to anyone, anywhere, anytime. We are each on our own individual journeys. Try to create work from a place of play and discovery. Be willing to revise, challenge yourself and be challenged.
Can you tell us a bit about your next book releasing?
My next book, In a Jar, will be coming out in Spring 2020 with Putnam’s Sons, Penguin. It’s another author/illustrated book that is about a friendship that grows between two bunnies, Llewellyn and Evelyn, through their collection of memories in jars.
Thank you, Deborah, for your time and for mentoring one lucky author/illustrator in 2019. To see Deborah’s lovely illustration work, please visit her website www.deborahmarcero.com. All information about how to apply to Writing with the Stars is on the WWTS Contest tab. Applicants, please remember to support these mentor authors. Buy their books, review them online, and tell your local librarians how awesome they are.