My first encounter with Lisa Rose was as an author through her Facebook group, “Missing Voice.” Like me and countless others, she is now a Kar-Ben author with Shmulik Paints the Town, a story about a painter, a dog, and Israeli Independence Day. Here you’ll find an interview with her, illustrator Catalina Echeverri, and Kar-Ben publisher Joni Sussman.
The Whole Megillah (TWM): Lisa, what inspired this story?
Lisa Rose (LR): This story was inspired by my cousin who paints pictures using dog paw prints. She drips the paw in paint and then stamps it over the canvas. Afterwards, she creates paintings based upon the prints. Owners love to have this very unique work of art. Also, sometimes people bring their old and sick dogs to her so that they can have a lasting memory their beloved pet.
TWM: Please describe your writing process for this story.
LR: I was swimmer before I ever was a writer. It was excellent practice for becoming a writer. Both often require you to go as fast as you can into a cement wall. This story hit many cement walls. I put it aside for a bit and then one day after attending a story structure workshop by Shutta Crum I figured out how to revise it. Victory! My advice: Never throw out stories that aren’t working. Simply, put them aside—you never know when you will learn how to revise it. It may take days…or years…but it will come.
TWM: What was your greatest satisfaction?
LR: This is my very first print picture book. (I have published e-book and stories in anthologies.) So I think after wishing, hoping, praying, and working my tush off, it was finally seeing my name on the cover. WOW! This is really happening! It a real book with ISBN number and everything.
TWM: Joni, what attracted you to this manuscript?
Joni Sussman (JS): I loved that Lisa’s story takes place in Israel and yet the focus of the plot is not just Israeli Independence Day, but rather a charming and whimsical story about a man and his talented pup, which would delight any child. This book gave Kar-Ben a chance to portray a number of aspects of Israel that we like to portray—what the desert-y landscape of Israel looks like, what Israel’s diverse population looks like, an Israeli city’s combination of old and new buildings, etc.
TWM: How/why did you choose Catalina to illustrate?
JS: Admittedly, Catalina was an unusual choice to illustrate this book as her artwork is a bit “edgy,” but my goal was to find an illustrator who could really bring personality to Shmulik and Catalina did a great job of that. I was charmed by her art style and loved the way she used color sparingly at the beginning and then saturated the story with color when Shmulik’s artwork is revealed at the end—I think it’s really quite spectacular. Both Catalina’s art and Lisa’s text take this book beyond its story about Israel and friendship between man and pup—both great themes—into the realm of art and what art means can serve as inspiration to young readers to let their imaginations soar.
TWM: Thanks, Joni. Let’s turn to Catalina. How did you develop your color strategy?Catalina Echeverri (CE): When I am illustrating a picture book by another author, I like to do a lot of research. I read the text several times and then research images or artists which somehow remind me of the text or somehow visually “connect” me to it. In this case, Lisa’s text reminded me of a book I bought on sale a long time ago from an artist called John Rombola. I have always admired the way that his line work is so crisp and clean and the way that he incorporates colour in such a powerful way. It’s simple, and yet vibrant and graphic. He was my main source of inspiration fro this book. Modern cities in many parts of the world, have lost their vibrancy and their color and I’ve always been struck by the way beautiful murals and art interventions in urban spaces are able to bring back some vibrancy and happiness to the spaces they are placed in. So when I read Lisa’s story about little Ezra and his artistic paws that was exactly what was brought into my mind.
TWM: Did you have any particular challenges in illustrating this book?
CE: I’ve always wanted to visit Israel but I’ve never had the opportunity to actually go and because I always like my work to be faithful to the place and costumes of the country/historical period the characters are placed in this posed a particular challenge. I had to do a lot of online research about the places, the people and the buildings that the book would be set in. There were lots of hours invested on this part of the process because I wanted everything to be submerged into the Jewish culture, including the plants and the little details. Although it was a challenge it was really enriching! I learnt a lot about Israel and how beautiful it is.
TWM: Did you have any particular satisfactions?
CE: How the book has been so positively received by both the Publisher and the Writer Lisa Rose has been so encouraging! Joni and Laura gave me a lot of creative freedom and really trusted in me for this project and so I really wanted to honour that trust. The Author’s response is also a great satisfaction because I know it is a text she has worked really hard on and I wanted to do it justice.
TWM: Thanks, Catalina. Lisa, Did the artwork surprise you in any way?
LR: The artwork looked nothing like my cousin’s paintings so at first it was a little jarring. However, I’m so pleased with Catalina’s work. I love how she chose to use black and white with color. We’ve never met and didn’t even speak to her until after the book was released—but I know she “got” the story. All my fears never came true. I can’t wait to meet her and give her a BIG HUG!
TWM: Can you say a few words about the Facebook group you moderate?
LR: I host a discussion group on Facebook. Many times people don’t buy diverse books, because they lack the awareness. I’m Jewish. However, I taught in Detroit and many of my stories are inspired by my African-American students. I believe because of my experience, I have a unique perspective of understanding two communities. I observe how both communities can lack an understanding of each other. Not because of hate, but because of just living divided. I believe the way to end ignorance is with knowledge. I call it “Missing Voice” because I want it to mean more than just race, but also include religion, and little known historical facts and people. Once a month a new picture book is selected to read and discuss. At the end of the month is a live chat with the author on our Missing Voice Facebook page.
TWM: Lisa, what’s next for you?
LR: My writing is very diverse. I write Nice Jewish Picture Books and I’m working on a mutli-media project with Jeff Bass, Grammy and Oscar-winning music producer of rapper Eminem. Also, I write non-fiction and silly secular fiction picture books. But all of these works are linked by common theme of: cheer for the underdog!
SHMULIK PAINTS THE TOWN can be found on Amazon. It’s the #1 New Release for Jewish Children’s Books. It also can be purchased through the publisher www.karben.com
To learn more please go to: www.LisaRoseWrites.org Also, be my friend on Facebook Lisa Rose or tweet @LisaRoseWrites.