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!

2 comments on “Douglas Florian today

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Douglas Florian today « Children's Author David L. Harrison's Blog -- Topsy.com

  2. Thank you, David, for featuring Douglas Florian. I’m glad that he stuck with his decision to write poetry for children even though some editors spoke discouragingly about the genre’s marketability. It is difficult for me to imagine the world of children’s poetry without him in it.

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