New Voice: Ashlee Fletcher on My Dog, My Cat

Ashlee Fletcher is the first-time author-illustrator of My Dog, My Cat (Tanglewood, 2011). From the promotional copy:

Readers learn the differences between dogs and cats and the way that love can bind even the most different of creatures together.

Could you tell us the story of “the call” or “the email” when you found out that your book had sold? How did you react? How did you celebrate?

When I got “the call” that my children’s book was being published I was going to the mall with my mom.

I was just pulling up into the parking lot when Peggy Tierney, the editor at Tanglewood Press, called. Peggy had emailed me about a week before and had warned me that she would be calling sometime early the following week. I parked my car and quickly answered the phone!

Peggy told me: “congratulations, you’re now a published author and illustrator!”

I was absolutely ecstatic and even more happy that my mom was there for that great moment in my life. I cried, and she cried. We hugged and hopped out of the car.

We celebrated by first calling all of my family and friends. Then proceeded into the mall where I bought a very cute yellow dress to match a pair of yellow shoes I had at home already.

As an author-illustrator, you come to children’s books with a double barrel of talent. Could you describe your apprenticeship in each area, and how well (or not) your inner writer and artist play together? What advice do you have for others interested in succeeding on this front?

I am first and foremost an illustrator. I have always loved to draw, paint, doodle, sketch—you name it really—but what inspires me to be an artist is writing.

Both of my talents really feed off of each other. In order for me to illustrate, I need to have a great story, and in order for me to write, I need to express myself visually.

I grew up wanting to be an artist, and that is what I love to do the best. I did art throughout high school and continued my studies at Laguna College of Art & Design in Laguna Beach, California. I studied there for four years and completed my bachelor’s degree in 2009.

In college, I studied fine art and illustration ranging from traditional figure and landscape painting to graphic design and printmaking. I really got into designing and writing children’s books after I took a picture book illustration course at school. We learned how to layout, design and construct a full children’s book in a semester, and I was hooked.

If I was going to offer anyone advice on how to be a children’s book writer or illustrator, I would say sketch, doodle, use your imagination and just be creative.

One of the things I was most thankful for was making a schedule for myself. I wrote everything down I wanted to accomplish in my calendar and was very sure to complete everything on the list. I studied up on each and every publisher’s submissions guidelines and made certain to cater to each company’s standards. I submitted my dummies and manuscripts and waited, but while I waited, I was productive on keeping up my website and designing new books.

I guess my main advice would be to be positive and stay productive!

Cynsational Notes

Valley publisher Peggy Tierney’s business has been booming Tanglewood Press has published more than 35 titles by Brian M. Boyce from Tribune-Star in Terre Haute, Indiana. Peek: “A No. 1 title on the New York Times bestseller list, The Kissing Hand (by Audrey Penn, illustrated by Ruth E. Harper) sells about 100,000 copies a year and has sold 3.3 million copies to date.”