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Blog Hop: What I Am Working On, Why and How

Oh my dear readers, I have really fallen behind. Over the past two months I have been caring for my terminally ill dog, my sweet gentle Jambo- who died on May 29, 2014. He had osteosarcoma- a deadly bone cancer, apparently common in the large breeds. If you have a big dog (age 7 or so) who starts to limp, do not take it lightly…We are heartbroken to have lost our dear friend.PicFrame

2 Jambo 8-1-06In the midst of this heartache, I have been trying to find joy in painting illustrations for my upcoming book, Old King Cole (Fall 2015.) Jambo’s illness was a huge distraction- physically and emotionally, and now I am working like mad to finish the final art.

And, I  was  tagged and agreed  to participate in a blog hop, in which I am to answer four questions regarding my work:

1- What am I working on?

Right now I am painting the final illustrations for my extended version of Old King Cole- a story about a castle ball and one sleepy sire (that’s all I can tell you for now.) I need to submit the art no later than July 1st- and I think I may just eke it out…Lots of characters in this book so it has been a challenge to draw and paint. The writing was also  demanding because of the internal rhymes and tough rhythms in this old verse and, of course, I had to match the meter perfectly. I spent a good deal of time reworking it on my own, with my agent’s help and finally with my editor. I think it’s in good shape and I am eager to see what my readers think. Of course we’ll have to wait till fall of 2015. It’s just not fair!

As soon as I finish the paintings, I will need to get started on revisions and sketches for my next book, Gabe and Goon (about a boy and a monster- Fall of 2016.)

When time allows, I have revisions to do on my memoir (a project now going on 5 years..) I have to say, initially, the words flowed so easily,  as if the story were already finished and I was just retyping. Sometimes I think complete manuscripts are stored in the file cabinets of our brains. For years, I wanted to tell my story, but  didn’t know how. I kept wanting to unlock that cabinet. Then, in fall of 2009, on a morning walk, I unearthed the key. This is how most ideas come to me- on their own damn time.

And yes, sometimes the words flowed joyously, but there were also many days when I couldn’t find a single word. Some days I loved what I had written; other days I hated it. Reviews from early readers have been very positive so I am encouraged, but I still have a good deal of work to do to get it in shape.

2-How does my work differ from others in the genre?

Ideas are universal but stories are individual.  Any one of us can take the same idea and turn it into a unique story. We have our own voices. We have our own plots.

Back in 1991, when I started working on The Itsy Bitsy Spider, I didn’t realize that I would have a niche in the market and make a career of retelling nursery rhymes. Other people have done it as well, and  still do, but I suppose my books are recognizable by the art and also my format of  humorous, surprise action spreads. For example: The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the rocking chair…  then, a flip of the page to an action spread- Up jumped a cat and knocked her in the air... This  pattern is typical of many of my nursery rhyme books- though not all of them. Sometimes the stories do not lend themselves to this treatment.

As for the memoir- it’s my story alone.

3-Why do I write what I write?

Since I was a child I  dreamed of making picture books, and I can still recall the joy and comfort  I found in reading. To this day I love picture books and have a large and growing collection to peruse and be inspired by.  I love the puzzle solving process of writing in rhyme, of juggling words and staying true to meter. I love bringing those words to life in my illustrations. Writing for children gives me permission to  view the world through the eyes of a child- with love,  humor and wonder!

4- How does my writing process work?

When I have an idea for a picture book, pretty much everything else stops. I make a plot and work on it night and day until I have a good rough draft. I read  and sing (the nursery rhyme books) out loud many times until I’ve memorized the words. I recite (and sing) them to myself in the shower, in the car, on my walks, to my family and friends. I make many revisions and when I feel I’ve done my best- off it goes to my agent.  And then there may be more revisions as per her suggestions- and certainly many more once my editor gets a hold of it 🙂

As for the memoir, I’ve had to reserve chunks of time to work on it between picture book projects. I made a simple outline to get started ( I do this in my picture books too.) I am not a complete plotter, but I do need to have an idea of were I am going.  I may stray off the path as the story takes on a life of it’s own, but ultimately I get to my destination. I can’t imagine beginning without some kind of a plan.

I know many writers don’t recommend this, but I  edit as I go along. I have never been good at putting down a quick rough draft of a story.  I can’t just write a horrible paragraph and leave it.  It’s certainly not a final edit, but the writing has to be acceptable at the very least. Each paragraph sets the stage for the next and I just can’t proceed unless I have a good platform to jump off of.


I am tagging:

Jean V. Naggar, the  wonderful literary agent and author of  her alluring  memoir, Sipping From the Nile: My Exodus From Egypt. She is humble, warm and enlightening. You will enjoy reading about her process.

 Emily Kate Moon, author and illustrator of a beautiful and award-winning debut picture book, Joone-  about a spirited little girl who lives in a yurt with her grandfather.  Hear what she has to say about writing for little ones and see some art in progress for her next book.

Helen Maryles Shankman, wonderful writer,  classic artist,  daughter of Holocaust survivors, and author of The Color of Light- a unique and stunning novel incorporating fine art, vampires and man’s inhumanity to man. Read what she has to say and see some of her art.

About the author

Iza Trapani I am a children's book author and illustrator, fan of Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss, lover of big dogs, aspiring yodeler. When not in my studio, I spend time outdoors and have climbed over many a mountain to see what I could see.

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12 Responses to Blog Hop: What I Am Working On, Why and How

  1. oh i loved reading this! you are such a pro. even the way you write and become completely absorbed in your project until it is done is so very professional! i am not nearly so focussed. but, like you (in my secret moments of writing for grown-ups) i have to edit as i go. there is no way i can move forward until the preceding paragraph is just right… or right enough!

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Thanks, Emily- but I don’t know if I am a pro or suffer from OCD! I am glad you edit as you go along. I am hearing more and more from fine writers that they do the same. So maybe we don’t need to take all the writing advice that is dispensed from every which way- and just stay true to ourselves 🙂

  2. Linda Baie says:

    I knew about your dear dog, Jambo, Iza, from Facebook, & am sorry that it was a tough time for him & for you. I enjoyed hearing about your process, the intent of your work when you have an idea. I do work on some of my writing, but am far behind most, and still scattered with my teaching. Maybe someday can concentrate on one thing! Thank you for taking the time to share!

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Thank you so much, Linda. Now that school is over, I hope you have a wonderful and creative summer- maybe even catch up on some of that writing!

  3. I love that picture of you Jambo laying on the floor!!! I know you have sweet memories.
    And what fun to hear about your process! I edit as I go , too!
    I’m looking forward to your new books :•)

  4. rhythm says:

    Thanks for sharing the pictures of Jambo. He will always be with you. I’m sure that on occasion you will see him coming down the hallway or waiting by a window. It happens here. Ghosts with big hearts. I’m sorry that dog lives go by so quickly. Thanks for sharing a bit of your writing self. It’s nice to have a picture of you, in my head, at your desk, creating magic.

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Yes, Rhythm, he is always with me. I was painting him in my new book and one of his hairs showed up on the paper 🙂 I miss him so much and am sad that he didn’t have a longer life. It’s just not fair. Dogs are so wonderful. But he did have a good life- that I can say. Thanks for your kind words, Rhythm.

  5. BBF, 🙁 my heart is crying with you. I am SO sorry bout Jambo. I knew he was sick but did not know about this. Oh gosh. That picture of you and Jambo is priceless. I am truly, truly sorry, BBF.

    I loved reading about your process. (I edit as I go, too.) Two peas in a pod? I think so!

    Thinking of you, Iza, dear BBF. xoxoxoxoxo

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Yes, BBF, two peas in a pod- animal lovers and writers! Thank you for your warmth. I miss my sweet boy so much, but I carry him in my heart always. He was too big to carry in my arms :-)- though he did like to sit in my lap. Love and hugs to you!

  6. Hi Iza,
    I am so very sorry to read about Jambo. I hope time has started to heal your broken heart.

    • Iza Trapani says:

      Thank you so much for your warm comment, dear Tracy. Some of the acute pain is over, but I still miss him terribly. I think I always will.The hardest thing about having pets is that we will most likely outlive them…So good to hear from you!

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