Featured Illustrator Interviews

Anna Walker - Interview (November 2018)

What five words best describe you?

persistent, thoughtful, hard working, friendly, and a worrier

How did you get started in this industry?

Before I could read, I knew I wanted to illustrate children's books when I grew up. So when I finished Year 12,

I completed a Degree with Honours in Graphic Design - being the closest thing to a course on illustration.

For years I took my folio around to  publishers while working as a freelance illustrator. I illustrated book covers, packaging and editorial work but couldn't seem to convince the publishers that I was able to illustrate a children's book.

It wasn't until I spent a weekend away attending workshops for emerging picture book illustrators (organised by Ann James and the Australian Society of Authors) where I met Emma Quay and others that the stars aligned. Emma encouraged me to send the texts I had been writing to Publishers, including Ana Vivas at Scholastic, and I was offered my first picture book! I sometimes think that the publishing world finally let me in, because they were tired of me knocking at the door! 

Is there any part of the creative process you don't like?

I don't like the waves of self doubt that rise up during the process of making a picture book. I thought they might dissipate with experience, but no, they still find ways of being overwhelming at times! 

I love the moment though when you are considering a story that might just work, and the world of possibilities seem limitless. It's as if a new world is opening up before your eyes.

What advice would you give to someone who is trying to catch the eye of a publisher?

Present your ideas or illustrations in a different way. Send a special parcel that is beautifully packaged, including a postcard or something that a publisher might pop on their desk or pin board. Think about new ways of connecting, whether it be through a short stop motion about your book or a montage of images in a video that you can send. Looking for fun ways of making an impression in the sea of applicants might just make the difference.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? (Plotter =Plotting out your manuscript before you write it.  /   Pantser = Putting pen to paper and plotting as you go along)

My story ideas come from images and I explore threads of ideas in an organic way through those images which I suppose is 'Pantser'. . . Once I find a connection between those threads I will create a storyboard which perhaps could be seen as 'plotting' out the story. It's then once I have this rough thumbnail storyboard that I write words to partner the images.

What excites you about the future of children's books?

The fresh voices exploring so many different ideas in unique ways. I am delighted that design and typography are playing greater roles in Australian picture books. 

The other part that I find exciting about children's books is that teachers are  exploring Art through the stories in the classroom. It fills me with joy to see primary school children creating magnificent collage pieces or trying printmaking or making small stop motions.

What’s the funniest thing a child has ever said to you during one of your presentations/talks?

One of the funniest and loveliest moments was when a shy prep girl who was watching me pack up my things after a class session, whispered that she had a gift ('rock') for me. Apparently she had found the special 'rock' on the way to school. I waited as she rummaged through her school bag. . .and watched her heartbroken face not being able to find the rock! I said not to worry, that it was lovely to meet her. But there was no giving up, she took everything out of her bag and discovered a teeny jar of fairy dust. . . and joyfully announced that, that was my gift! Each time I see that jar of sparkly yellow fairy dust it makes me smile!

What's next from Anna Walker?

'Lottie and Walter' is next. 😊 It's a story I wrote and illustrated, and is coming out in March 2019. 

When I was young, my cousin told me there was a shark in my grandparent's swimming pool. From that day on, I would not get into the pool by myself in case the shark would come out of the pool filter and eat me! 'Lottie and Walter' is about that moment and how we might overcome fear with imagination.


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