If you have kids, chances are you’ve heard of (because they’ve heard of) Scaredy Squirrel. Your kids have almost certainly either read the award-winning series of best-selling books or watched the shows on Cartoon Network. Or both.
If you’ve heard of Scaredy Squirrel and you don’t have kids, well…maybe you’re just a kid at heart. Which is also cool. 🙂 And I’m sure is just fine with our next FOTF guest.
Canadian children’s author and illustrator, Mélanie Watt, is best known as the creator of Scaredy Squirrel. Her talents, however, are not limited to that one character. There are also Chester the cat and Augustine the penguin. And of course, Leon the Chameleon (the product of a design class project) who was the first character, and the first title published. Sort of the first domino to fall.
Kids Can Press has since gone on to additionally publish twenty of her creations, firmly establishing Mélanie as a major and enduring part of the children’s literary scene. And she continues still, to turn out more and more fantastic kid’s stories and art work, and lends her illustrating magic to titles from other artists, as well.
If you want to follow Mélanie online, the best place is the Official Scaredy Squirrel site at www.scaredysquirrel.com. Your kids (or you) can also join the Scaredy Squirrel Fan Club while you’re there. She also keeps a blog going over at http://melaniewatt.blogspot.com. And of course your kids will want to keep close tabs on all the Scaredy Squirrel happenings on the Scaredy Squirrel Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/ScaredySquirrel. Scaredy even has a Twitter
You know, interviewing successful artists is always special for me, and having the chance to take a closer look into some of their lives and thoughts has put me in touch with some truly wonderful people who are contributing in exceptional and lasting ways to our kids. These are the ones that are really worth the effort, the ones who make it feel easy. The hardest part of this one was learning to type that accented “e”! (ALT+130, for all you Windows users.)
I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to spend a little time with one of the great children’s authors and illustrators, of the day. So please join me for the next five minutes (or less), and read, share and be inspired as we share this chat with the extraordinary Mélanie Watt!
1. Who has been your greatest influence (personally or artistically), and how?
Michèle Lemieux, my university art teacher (author-illustrator of Stormy Night), introduced me to the world of children’s books. She was a great inspiration and encouraged me to pursue this career.
2. Which previous job/project had the most impact on you, and why?
I would have to say Leon the Chameleon, my university art project in Michèle Lemieux’s class. It started out in French (Léon le caméleon), which I translated (Leon the Chameleon) so my teacher could send it to children’s publisher, Kids Can Press, in 1999. I was offered my first book contract and immediately started working with editor Debbie Rogosin to tweak the book while I was still finishing my design program at university. Leon the Chameleon is a story about a chameleon that turns the opposite color of his surroundings. It was meant to explain color theory to kids as well as to teach them about accepting our differences. This book changed my career path and helped me discover my skills as a writer (which I did not know I had!).
3. Is there a “secret of success”? If so, what? And if not, why?
I think it’s about believing in what you’re doing and sticking to it.
It’s easy to get discouraged when you’re working alone in your studio, but you have to get past those moments of hesitation and keep doing what you feel is right. I just finished a 96-page picture book called Bug in a Vacuum (due out in Fall 2015). It’s totally different from my other books and was a huge undertaking. It’s an example of how following your instincts and sticking to it can be fruitful.
4. Is there a particular moment or event that had a great effect on your life or career?
Working with Tara Walker, editor of the early Scaredy Squirrel books and the Chester series, really catapulted my career. I started using humor in my writing and she encouraged me to keep it up and to take some risks. It was a different approach and it really opened a new, fun world for me. I try to appeal to different age levels in my humor. The best compliment I get from parents is when they say they enjoy laughing along with their kids during story time!
5. If you could share one, single pearl of wisdom, what would it be?
Unlike Scaredy Squirrel, try not to worry about the past or future and be in the present moment.
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