Through Endangered Eyes
Yes, there is a great deal to howl about today!
I am honored to have as a guest to the blog, Rachel Dillon, the amazingly creative, poet and illustrator of the book, Through Endangered Eyes: A poetic journey into the wild.
Let me begin by introducing Rachel Dillon ~~
"Rachel Dillon was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin. She attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison and graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science in Art, emphasizing in Graphic Design. Outside of art, Dillon held a special interest in evolution and extinction and took several classes in paleontology, and geology. Her passion for animals grew as she learned more about endangered species."
As part of the Women on Writing celebration of Poetry Month, a blog tour was created for Rachel to help get the word out about her exciting new book. I was fortunate to be chosen as one of the blogs she visited!
So, without further adieu, let us begin our interview:
Hi, Rachel! Happy National Poetry Month! It is an honor to have you be part of my month-long celebration of poetry. Congratulations on your beautiful new book, Through Endangered Eyes: A Poetic Journey into the Wild. I'm curious; who are the poets that have influenced your writing?
Most of the poetry that inspires me right now is found in children’s books. I love Dr. Seuss and his creative poetry, especially how he made up words to make things rhyme. Shel Silverstein is magical in his rhyming. One of my favorite books to read to my kids is by Julia Donaldson, called “Room on the Broom,” the story is told all in poetry, very clever and well done!
The gallery of pictures in your book just takes my breath away. I am so intrigued by your art. Wisconsin is a long way from Australia! How did you come to use Australian Aboriginal dot painting?
My Aunt and Uncle are in Ulladula, Australia. My Aunt moved there over 40 years ago and married an Australian man. I took my first trip to Eastern Australia when I was seven years old. Going to such a faraway country was unique at a young age. My teacher made a big deal about my travels and I started to fall in love with Australia once I had been there. I went again when I was 16; and then when I was 19.
I was introduced to Aboriginal Acrylic Dot Painting in Canberra, the capital city of Australia in 1992. The colors, patterns and textures inspired me. When I returned home and started one of my art classes, I just had to try out the dot painting method. I went to the library to find books about Aboriginal Acrylic Dot Painting, and they were sparse. I couldn't figure out how they made dots so perfectly round, until I saw a picture of an Aboriginal man sitting under a tree, dipping a stick into paint. I flipped my paintbrush around and used the other end to create the dots I was looking for. The dots are raised and create a Braille-like texture to the paintings. The paintings for the book were done on 9" x 12"canvas board. Most paintings took me 8-12 hours to complete.
You stated in the WOW (Women on Writing) interview that you began this book when your daughter was six months old. Could you tell our readers a bit about how you managed to juggle writing a book and caring for your daughter as well as managing all the other demands in your life? Do you have any tips for other writer moms?
Since I have become a mother, I have become creative with my time, and take any free time I can get. I am distracted more easily when I write versus when I paint, so I have to find a quiet place to concentrate. Sometimes, I couldn’t be picky. I wrote many of the first drafts of my poems for my book while I drove to and from work and daycare. My favorite place to write is outside. But, most of the time, I write late at night after the kids go to bed.
For my painting process, I mix my paint for a new piece in containers so that I don’t need to repeatedly mix my colors. This allows me to paint for shorter periods of time. I don’t mind minor distractions when I paint. In fact, I love having my kids watch me paint, because it is important for them to experience the process.
I make time to paint and write because I understand how important it is to me. I feel that if I show my kids that it’s important to make time to do what you love, then maybe they will do the same for themselves as they grow up.
Selling yourself, as well as your manuscript can be daunting to a writer. What assisted you in getting your manuscript accepted (twice!)? How did you choose who to send it to?
I started shopping for a publisher in 2003. I sat down for an entire weekend with the Children’s Writer and Illustrators Market guide. I read every publisher’s information in that book and chose about 15 publishers whose submission criteria I met. The first round I only submitted to four publishers. All the publishers I submitted to: accepted unsolicited manuscripts; approved of an author that was an illustrator; wanted non-fiction for children; and each year they were devoted to publishing a first time author.
Stemmer House was the first to give me a contract, and then they dropped my contract in 2007 when a new editor came on board. I went through the process all over again and this time I submitted to 14 publishers. Finney Company contacted me in 2008, and I signed a contract with them. Within a year my book was completed. It was a roller coaster, to say the least!
The intro to this blog states, “Words are power...” The words in your book have a great deal of power...to enlighten, to challenge, to inform and to nurture. How does your book speak to the reader about endangered species?
When I sat down to write a poem about an animal, I read all of the factual information first. I picked out unique and interesting qualities about the species and created the poem from there. I don’t sugar coat the fact that these species are in trouble and need help. I think it is important to get my audience amazed by how special animals are to the balance of the earth. These species are rare and I think if people feel connected to something they will really want to help.
Many children hear of a problem and have instant hope that they can fix it. I want people to feel hope that things can change, even though the work ahead of us will be challenging.
I read that you are beginning a new book Through Desert Eyes. How do you do your research for creating the pictures of these animals as well as writing the poems?
For my next book, I am going to try to use as many of my own photographs of the animals as references for my paintings. I have many photos of animals, but mostly in zoos. Those species I can’t photograph myself, I will purchase stock photography to work from.
I want to start contacting people that might specialize in desert species to gather my factual information. I have relied on the Internet for most of my facts, it would be nice to actually talk to people that really know a species.
You added pages for parents and teachers to your book. What type of information might they find there?
I wanted to add more than the facts in the back of the book. I enclosed a list of conservation groups, in case someone was looking to make a donation to help. I really believe that it is important to teach children at a young age to donate a percentage of their earnings to help something outside of themselves. I also have a list of activities parents might like to do with their child that continues to increase a child’s awareness of endangered species. The activities range from making a list of endangered species in zoo to making a scrapbook of them from magazine clippings or photographs you take.
For teachers there are several lesson plan ideas in the subjects of writing, science, math and art. My mother-in-law is a retired elementary school teacher and she helped me create a list of activities for children in classrooms.
Finally, is there anything special you would like to share with our readers during our celebration of National Poetry Month?
Keep writing! Poetry is a beautiful form of expression! Thank you for having me on your blog, I truly appreciate it!
Many thanks to Rachel Dillon, all the wonderfully, wild women at WOW! and to my beloved Roger, who supports and celebrates all my writing endeavors.