Throughout October (which happens to be Canadian Library Month), children’s book author and illustrator Patricia Storms will be conducting a series of workshops with the Toronto Public Library as IBBY Canada’s Joanne Fitzgerald illustrator-in-residence. The program is a partnership between IBBY and the family of Joanne Fitzgerald (1954–2011), the illustrator of such beloved children’s books as Emily’s House and Doctor Kiss Says Yes, for which she received a Governor General’s Literary Award. Funding for the residency is provided by Fitzgerald’s family, as well as her longtime publisher, Groundwood Books.
Storms, the author-illustrator of The Pirate and the Penguin (Owlkids Books) and Never Let You Go (Scholastic Canada), was selected by a jury comprised of IBBY Canada president Shannon Babcock, author-illustrator Marie-Louise Gay, Canadian Children’s Book Centre library coordinator Megan Howe, last year’s inaugural illustrator-in-residence Martha Newbigging, and the Toronto Public Library’s Martha Scott and Leigh Turina.
In addition to the public workshops, covering such topics as “What makes a good picture book,” and “How to illustrate for publishers,” Storms will be leading children in art projects at the library, conducting school visits, and scheduling portfolio review sessions with aspiring artists and illustrators.
In advance of tonight’s launch at TPL’s Northern District branch, Storms spoke to Q&Q about the program and what it means to her.
How did this all come about? I found out about the program through The Canadian Children’s Book Centre in 2013. I asked a writer friend if I should apply [last year] and she said that I should cast my net out for anything and everything. So I applied, and the very talented illustrator Martha Newbigging was chosen. I was encouraged to apply again for 2014. Thank goodness for encouraging friends!
What does the experience mean to you? I feel very fortunate. I have an opportunity to create illustration workshops for a wide-ranging audience. I love working with children and I also enjoy sharing my experiences in this creative business with young adults. I’ve had a lot of help in my career, so it feels good to give back. And, well, as an illustrator and author of children’s books, I am well acquainted with rejection. So to be chosen for something as wonderful as this by people whom I respect, it means a great deal to me. The program also combines some of the things I love most in life – art, kid’s books, and libraries.
Why do you think programs like this are important? I am concerned with the lack of art programs in schools, compared to what I experienced when I was young. I’m a big supporter of encouraging creative, independent thought. I’m also aware of how challenging it is to get published in this business.
What are you most looking forward to? The opportunity to talk about illustration and books with a captive audience! I could talk for hours about drawing and creating picture books. And those who know me, know that I can talk.
When’s your next book coming out? I’m always hesitant to talk about the next book until it’s in my hot little hands, but if all goes well, there will be a new fun Halloween book coming out next year, illustrated by me.
This interview has been edited and condensed.