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Today it’s my pleasure to welcome Patricia Storms with her newest book, SUN WISHES. I caught a glimpse of the cover online and I was immediately captivated by the bold colors. I was so drawn to the book, I had to ask her about it!

Patricia, this blog focuses on story ideas, so please tell us how you got the concept for SUN WISHES?

It’s interesting how SUN WISHES came to be.

SUN WISHES would not have happened without MOON WISHES, which came into the world in 2019.

MOON WISHES came about as a conversation with my husband Guy. The response from MOON WISHES was so kind and positive. I wasn’t sure what the response would be, because it was a different kind of picture book—soft, dreamy, poetic. I was pleased that people enjoyed MOON WISHES, but it really did not occur to me to write a sequel, or follow-up. But I was at a Christmas party in 2019 (a party full of children’s authors & illustrators, by the way), and I had brought a copy of Moon Wishes with me. One of the guests turned to me after reading Moon Wishes and said, “Well, when are you going to write SUN WISHES?” My jaw dropped. I had never considered that! So then I could not get that title out of my head, and within the next few days, the words poured out of me so easily, like a gift from the heavens.

You are an illustrator yourself, but Milan Pavlović is the illustrator for both books. How did that come about?

Yes, I did receive a lot of questions/confusion when MOON WISHES came out—why was I letting someone else illustrate my text, if I can illustrate my own books? Well, it’s like this: before MOON WISHES came out, I had illustrated a couple of books under a very tight deadline, and I was mentally exhausted. Illustrating a picture book is a lot of hard work. But the main reason why Milan illustrated MOON WISHES and SUN WISHES is that he was the perfect person to illustrate my words.

I agree! His style is perfect for this book. The colors are so rich and vivid, and I love the way certain pages have an overall color theme based on the time of day or location. You can’t stop marveling at it.

For most of my creative career I have focused on cartooning, so all the books I have illustrated have been cute and funny. But all of a sudden I was getting all these soft and gentle words coming out of me. I can draw/paint in a soft manner, but I wasn’t sure I could suddenly change styles and create gentle art under a tight deadline. Plus I was really excited at the thought of having someone else illustrate my words. I’d never had that experience, professionally.

It’s scary to try new things when you are not sure of the end result, and trust me, I was a tad nervous (giving creative control over to another artist) but the end results were way beyond my expectations (this also includes my other book, THE DOG’S GARDENER, which was illustrated by the amazing Nathalie Dion). I do want to grow as an artist, so since the beginning of the pandemic I started painting using gouache, trying to stretch my skills. My dream is to illustrate a picture book using gouache instead of coloring digitally. We will see what transpires…

The last three books you have written have a very low word count, and even your earlier picture book, NEVER LET YOU GO has just over 100 words. Is there a reason behind that?

Yes, I do seem to have a penchant for short, short fiction. I’m not exactly sure what to say other than I think that’s how my creative brain works when it comes to writing. Even when I was very young, I wrote short works. I still have my kindergarten report card and my teacher wrote, “Patricia’s stories, though brief, are very imaginative.” I loved reading all the clever one-panel gag cartoons I found within New Yorker cartoon collection—short, clever jokes really rocked my world. I wrote lots of short poems back then, and then I eventually graduated to magazine gag cartoons and greeting cards. The next logical step seemed to be picture books. It’s not easy to write a story with a limited amount of text, but I really enjoy the challenge. I have read the criticisms of my works—some folks don’t quite get my approach to writing picture books; they think there is no ‘story’ within my words. I’ve read comments like “nothing happens” in some of the book reviews (I know, I shouldn’t read the negative reviews!). Well I would argue that lots happens—it’s just beneath the surface, and the approach is very quiet. I like picture books with lots of energy and highs and lows, but there is a place for quiet stories that make you think, and get to the heart of the matter.

Thank you for sharing SUN WISHES with us, Patricia! It’s a gorgeous, captivating book!

Blog readers, you can win a copy of SUN WISHES. Just leave one comment below.

A random commenter will be selected at the end of this month.

Good luck!


Ever since Patricia Storms can remember, she has loved to draw, paint, write, read, and sing. She was 12 years old when my first cartoon was published in a Toronto newspaper. She got paid five dollars for that cartoon, so she figured that maybe she should keep drawing. She’s been writing, drawing and painting ever since, publishing dozens of books which you can find here.

Visit her online at patriciastorms.com and follow her on Twitter @stormsy.

edwardeurekaI love picture books with a touch of magic, so I was thrilled to speak with Patricia Storms, illustrator of the whimsical Edward and the Eureka Lucky Wish Company by Barbara Todd. Edward wishes he could fly, and by chance he gets three wishes–but he doesn’t use them wisely.

What a fun challenge to illustrate the Skyhopper 2000, a flying bike! Patricia, how did you land the contract to work on this book?

I’ve been very fortunate when it comes to getting book illustration jobs. Most of the time, publishers have approached me. If memory serves me correctly with the Eureka book, I had sent off a pamphlet of my recent work to various publishers in North America, and as luck would have it, Kids Can Press just happened to be looking for a humorous illustrator for this project. I believe they had been considering my work, since they were already familiar with my art (it’s a small world in Canadian publishing). My portfolio pamphlet just helped to seal the deal.

How did you get started illustrating children’s books?

Well, it was a very slow process for me. I always enjoyed drawing (especially cartoons) and took art all through high school, but for various reason (fear of failure being the big one) I initially took a different path, and studied to work in libraries instead (being a bibliophile and all, and settling for more ‘secure’ work).

But I continued to draw when I could, and slowly started selling art on the side, while working full-time in libraries. I ended up working for the Toronto Public Library cataloguing of all things–children’s books! That’s when I started dreaming about how it would be so much more enjoyable to illustrate the books, rather than catalogue them. Eventually in my mid-30s I went back to school and became a graphic designer, still selling the cartoon/humor work on the side.

About 6 years ago my freelance work really started to increase, mainly because I began putting my work online. My first few picture book illustration jobs were work-for-hire jobs, doing illustrations for the educational kid’s book market. In all those cases, I was approached by the publishers. I enjoyed doing the educational illustration but I really wanted to get into trade book illustration, because I knew I would have a much wider audience.

My first trade illustrated book was 13 Ghosts of Halloween, published by Scholastic Canada. Once again, they approached me. My upcoming illustrated picture book, The Pirate and the Penguin, which is completely my creation, will be my third trade picture book, and I hope I can do more in the future.

This job, more than anything else I have ever done, feels so right for me. Because for me, it’s not just a job. It is who I am. I view myself as a bit of a ‘late bloomer’ in this field. I still feel like a newbie in the kid’s book industry – there are many people my age (45) who have been doing it for 20 years or more. I have so much to learn. I hope I can continue to learn and grow in this industry, if the gods will allow it.

patriciastormsWhat is the biggest challenge when translating someone else’s words into pictures? How much input does the editor have? Do you ever speak directly with the author?

I guess finding that perfect balance in which the editor and author are happy, but also where I get to add my own personal flavor without completely taking over the story…yet at the same time, where I’m not just being a “hired hand” doing grunt work.

How much input the editor has in developing the art for the story really depends upon the publisher and editor with whom you are working. Some editors will give some basic guidelines and then just let you fly, while others are much more hands-on, giving lots of direction and feedback. It’s never been the exact same experience for me.

The only time I’ve spoken directly with the author is when I have been illustrating the story written by me. It’s actually kind of hard to get away from myself. 😉

Generally, editors prefer to keep the author and the illustrator apart until the project is done. I’m not entirely sure of the reasons for doing this, but I suspect it is because they fear a) the author and illustrator will conspire together to give the editor and publisher grief or b) the author and illustrator will hate each other with a passion and disagree on everything and kill each other thus giving the editor and publisher grief.

It’s a tough, time-consuming (and expensive!) job creating a picture book so the last thing anyone working on the project needs is any added emotional stress.

The way I understand the process is that once the story has been accepted, the editor will work with the author to fine-tune the words, and then when the story is pretty much polished, that’s when the artist comes in to illustrate said words. By this point, the editor and art director work together to communicate with the illustrator concepts for the vision of the story, and of course the illustrator provides feedback, too. The script may still get edited a bit at this point, because once the pictures come into the equation, one discovers that very often the images can take the place of any extraneous words.

Once rough sketches are satisfactory for the editor and art director, they are shown to the author, just to make sure that the author doesn’t totally hate the artist’s vision. I’m pretty sure that if the author really were upset with the art, that something would have to be done, but once again, it all depends upon the publisher working on the project.

I only met the authors of my first two trade picture books AFTER the books were complete. Thankfully, both authors were happy with the final product. I do find it a stressful, worrisome experience, wondering whether or not the author is happy with my art. But I am a bit of a neurotic worry-wart, so I tend to let these things eat away at me.

piratepenguin1How and when did you make the decision to morph from illustrator to author-illustrator? Can you tell us about The Pirate and the Penguin, your first book as both author and artist?

Well, I’ve always enjoyed writing as well as drawing. As a kid I wrote and illustrated many comic strips, some of which were quite detailed, chock full of numerous characters. English and Art were my two favorite subjects all through school, and well, they still are! I think as soon as I realized that it was possible for me to get work in children’s book illustration, I knew in the back of my mind that I would eventually want to write my own stories. A lot of this stuff has been bouncing around in my head for a long time, and I really needed to let it out! That’s one of the reasons I started a blog a little over 4 years ago.

I became more determined about becoming an author/illustrator about two years ago. I began reading a lot online and in books about writing picture books, and of course, I read lots and lots of picture books that I brought home from the library. Around this time I joined an online critique group which was very helpful. Then about a year ago I took a “writing for children” course, which was also very helpful in teaching me about what worked in my writing, and what didn’t. During this time I would meet up with a wonderful writer friend of mine, Liam O’Donnell, from time to time. He writes pictures books and graphic novels and he’s just a really cool guy.

I was in one of my crabby moods, and I was kvetching to Liam about how tough it is to get published in the kid’s book biz. I made a flippant comment to him, something to the effect of, “If someone really wanted to cash in on two popular icons in kid’s books, they would write a story about a pirate and a penguin!”

Liam, being much smarter than me, actually thought it was a cool idea for a story, and urged me to write this crazy idea. I didn’t follow up on his suggestion right away, but every now and then he’d ask me “how’s that Pirate and Penguin story going?” So I figured I’d better do something.

When I finally thought of the story idea, I thought it was just too silly, but I mentioned it to Liam, and he loved it, and encouraged me to pursue it. So I did. And that’s how my upcoming picture book The Pirate and the Penguin came to be.

Of course it’s a fun story, because pretty much everything I write and draw is somehow touched by my wacky sense of humor. It’s a silly version of the classic The Prince and the Pauper, except that it involved a Penguin who hates the South Pole and a Pirate who can’t stand life on a pirate ship in the Caribbean. When they meet, lots of interesting stuff happens! And that’s all I’m going to say about the story for now, other than to say that I owe so much to Liam O’Donnell, and I’m eternally grateful to him for his guidance and encouragement.

There are many factors that come to play in getting published–knowledge, talent, perseverance, luck and patience. But it sure doesn’t hurt to have friends who are right there behind you, pushing you, rooting for you, and guiding you towards your dream.

That’s terrific advice! Thanks, Stormsy! (You don’t mind if I call you Stormsy, do you? No? Thanks.)

edwardeureka1Patricia is generously giving away an autographed copy of Edward and the Eureka Lucky Wish Company!

Please leave a comment to be entered into the drawing.

Blog or Tweet about the interview and get another two entries–just let me know here or on Twitter. Winner will be picked by Random.org one week from today! Good luck!

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