Douglas Florian today

Hello everyone,

If you read something about Douglas Florian yesterday, it’s no surprise that you’re back today to read his Q/A session with me. You won’t be disappointed. Let’s get right to it.

Douglas Florian

Q
How did you know you were a poet? Describe your decision and how you went about getting published.

A
When I was in the fifth grade I discovered the humorous poems of Ogden Nash. I knew then that poetry can be witty, concise and fun.

When I decided to write poetry for children some editors discouraged me, feeling “poetry doesn’t sell.” But I knew that if I loved poetry and pursued my muse I would succeed.

Q
Why are some people afraid of writing poetry? How can a beginning poet get past the fear factor?

A
Some people are afraid of poetry because they’ve had a bad experience with it growing up. Perhaps they had to analyze a difficult poem in school. But poetry can also be playful and light. In fact poetry can be anything it wants to be.

Q
Which is easier to write, verse or free verse?

A
For my ear I love to write verse. The challenge is to find rhymes that fit naturally and with wit. The rhyme is the glue.

Q
Why poetry? Why not stick with fiction or nonfiction? What attracts
some writers to poetry?

A
I enjoy the sound of words and wordplay in poetry, as well as all the different elements, such as alliteration, personification, and inventive language. I love to invent new words, such as my title, insectlopedia.

Q
How much does a children’s poet need to know about poetry to become a poet?

A
All he or she needs to know is to enjoy poetry and learn from other poets.

Q
While waiting for the big break from an editor, how should budding poets work to perfect their craft?

A
Budding poets should try to write a variety of poems. Use different rhyme schemes (ABAB is a challenging one), different rhythms, and different moods. And don’t ignore the rhythm of a poem, as young poets often do.

Q
How does on artist prepare for becoming a book illustrator?

A
Practice, practice, practice. And keep your eyes open everyday. Also try working in different media: watercolor, ink and brush, colored pencils, oil pastel,to name a few.

Q
How closely do you usually work with the author?

A
Usually I have no contact with the author. Most publishers don’t wish the author to push the artist to illustrate the text in their way. They want an independent point of view.

Q
How long do you usually need to do a complete book project?

A
Illustrating a book usually takes me at least months.

Q
What steps do you take from idea to finished work?

A
I do research. For Dinothesaurus I often visited The American Museum of Natural History, and consulted many books written by paleontologists.

Q
How much do you revise your work?

A
Sometimes a piece of art works on the first try. Sometimes it takes many revisions and changes.

Q
How do you use the computer as a tool for your art?

A
I only use my computer for researching images.

Q
What advise would you give authors that would help an artist make a better book?

A
Descriptive language usually helps the artist visualize better.

Q
Which usually comes first, the words or the art?

A
In my case the poems usually come first, although sometimes the opposite happens. Once I drew a woman’s hair and her hair looked like a chair. There was half a poem right there

Q.
How did you get into this business?

A
I noticed that Greenwillow Books was doing stunning, fresh, and beautiful books, so I took my portfolio to Susan Hirschman and Ava Weiss, the editor and designer there. They gave me a Mira Ginsberg book to illustrate on the spot: The Night It Rained Pancakes.

Q
Describe your work as a political cartoonist.

A
While going to Queens College I started doing satirical drawings for the OP-Ed page of The New York Times. I Illustrated pieces by Prince Charles, Senator Morris Udall, Real Estate Mogul Leona Helmsley, columnist James Reston, and many talented people. The work was always done in line and under a very tight deadline, usually one or two days. That’s why I ventured into children’s books.

Thanx, David!