Q & A with author/illustrator Rosemary Wells

Welcome Rosemary!

I am SO thrilled to have the opportunity to chat with you. You are truly an inspiration to me as a writer, but you’re also a treasure to me as a mother. My daughters and I have spent many quiet moments reading your books and reveling in your illustrations. Max & Ruby books are a perennial favorite in my family! Before I begin firing away with some questions, let me thank you for the joy you bring to so many through your imagination, talent, and kind heart.

Ok, so on to the brain-picking…

Blog_RosemaryWells_authorpicI loved reading in your bio about your childhood spent by the Jersey Shore and your explorations along the banks of the Shrewsbury River. I, too, live near the Jersey Shore and love the access to nature for my children. Do you think your experiences in the natural world as a child shaped your writing/illustrating life as an adult? How so?

Yes. It was the ease of a child’s life in the woods and on the shore, always exploring and often being alone that was important. All of us who grew up before bike helmets and stranger danger led very free and independent lives. Our parents and teachers never tried to invent activities for us. We did it ourselves. My grandchildren’s lives are very active and they have loads of fun but every activity is adult generated and supervised for them. I think it was better back then. It developed imagination, self sufficiency and independence.

In a video interview you previously recorded for Dial Books/Puffin Books, you said your ideas are like “birds that come to you on a ship at night.” When you begin a new story, does your idea usually begin with a sketch or a handful of words? 

All ideas begin with stories, with words. Pictures are really nothing except images to be put on the wall unless they are illustrating a story. All books should and do begin with story.

Your stories are full of equal measures of heart and spunk. I read an interview in which you said your daughters and their interactions with each other as kids were the initial inspiration for Max & Ruby. How is your own personality reflected in your work?

Max and Ruby were indeed my two girls almost 40 years ago when they were 5 years and 9 months respectively. I honestly don’t know how much or if at all my own personality, whatever that might be, is reflected in my books. I am a great copier. I walk into my stories as an actor might do. Acting and assuming other roles is what I do in my books. Had I chosen another path it would have been theatre.

As a new writer, I have found my critique group to be invaluable. Writing conferences and workshops are also important in my learning process. What connections do you rely on? Who do you turn to with drafts of new materials? 

Because I am a very private person I would not do well in a crit group. To me groups of like minded people are wonderful in tennis clinics but not for my work which is utterly personal. I would run in the opposite direction, truly from too much sharing which is something my generation eschews. It appears to me like asking everyone in the room to remove their clothing! I never show ideas to anyone but I do discuss my upcoming books with a few trusted editors who have my total respect.

My favorite quote/advice from you — “Every day, make a quiet, restful place for twenty minutes. Put your child in your lap and read a book aloud. In the pages of the book you will find a tiny vacation of privacy and intense love. It costs nothing but twenty minutes and a library card.” In this digital era, I feel this is more important than ever. Do you stay away from social media to protect your creative time? How do you structure work time (a typical day)?

Well, I dislike social media and never use it. Facebook and Twitter crosses a line for me that again is generational. I and millions of war babies ( WW2), were taught not to talk over much about ourselves. Revealing personal matters on a public forum filled with people I don’t know is truly a nightmare for me. I find it very shallow and trivial.

I know you do school visits as an author/illustrator. What message do you bring to the school community? What do you learn by interacting with kids and teachers? 

I always make my visits about the children in a given school and not about me. I try to show that good structure, discipline, respect for other’s views and constant revision are the basis for success in anything and certainly are a part of my working life. Only with these principles can creativity and freedom flourish. I couple this with a really varied and colorful video of my studio work. I also have Writers workshops for kids over the age of 10. I hope to inspire little artists and writers when I visit schools but also to reaffirm their teachers’ methods and work ethics.

Thank you so much, Rosemary! It was an absolute pleasure chatting with you!

Thank you, Jennifer. Great questions!

For more information about Rosemary Wells and her books, please visit her website www.rosemarywells.com 

4 thoughts on “Q & A with author/illustrator Rosemary Wells

  1. This was a wonderful interview! I have my own Ruby and two Max’s (Maxes? Yikes that was tricky) , they adore the show. Thank you Jennifer for posing such great questions, which were blessed with candid and refreshing answers. Rosemary, thank you for sharing your characters and your talents with the world.

    Liked by 1 person

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