Monday, December 29, 2008

An awesome Angeline pair - Crystalee and Stephen

I’m honored to be able to interview two important people with 4RV Publishing:
Crystalee Calderwood
, the author of Angeline Jellybean, and Stephen Macquignon, the creator of the visual Angeline.

Angeline Jellybean is a delightful story about a little girl who wanted to eat nothing but jellybeans. Crystalee wrote a story that children will like, and then Stephen brought the story to life with his illustrations.

All right, let’s get the general questions out of the way first:

Crystalee, I know you write other genres, but you seem to have an excellent grasp for children’s books. Where or how have you gained training in writing for children?

I never considered writing books for children until I was in grad school to get my MFA in Creative Writing. I was a poet at the time. I took a class called the Craft of Writing for Children and fell in love with the genre. A year later, I took a class in writing picture books. That class is actually where Angeline was born. I was “trained” in writing for children from a number of great, published and successful writers who were my mentors at school. I never would have been able to publish a book without my own initiative and doing my own research.

Stephen, you are an experienced illustrator (4RV and its authors are fortunate you joined them). When and how did you begin illustrating children’s books?

I attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City with the intent of becoming a comic book artist, however in my last year I took an illustrating for children’s book class and that is when I found a home for my art style.

Now, let’s find out more about Angeline as well as Crystalee and Stephen.

Crystalee, we’ve known each other for a few years, yet when you submitted Angeline, you didn’t trade on that online friendship, never letting me know that Crystalee was the Crys I knew. But I immediately wanted Angeline Jellybean when I read it. What caused you to consider 4RV?

Well, first of all, thank you for immediately wanting it! That was a big compliment to me. I knew you worked hard on your books and also that you worked closely with your authors to make sure the finished product was as good as possible. I also figured that submitting to a small press would be the way to go in order to break into the publishing business. I wanted to submit my work on my own just to prove that I could do it. I didn’t want anyone to accuse you of showing favoritism or helping me get into the business, so I didn’t disclose my online identity to you at the time.

Stephen, we didn’t know each other before you appeared on the 4RV “doorstep,” but your work immediately caused me to want you for us. What lead you to 4RV?

You posted a request for illustrators on a chat board for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators that I frequented from time to time. It is not often that a publisher will ask openly for submissions, so I thought why not summit my work and let the cards fall as they may.

Crystalee, what gave you the idea for Angeline?

I honestly have no idea. I was taking the picture book class that I mentioned before. Our assignment was to write a picture book under 500 words, and that’s exactly what I did. I decided to make it in rhyme because I had never written a picture book in rhyme before. That’s how Angeline was born. I wish I remembered where I came up with the storyline, because I get asked this question so often that I should really have a poetic answer.

Stephen, how did you manage to “picture” Angeline so well that Crys considered her exactly what she “pictured”?

Truthfully, luck. I was only given the first few sentences of the story. I could see she was a tough little cookie who liked things her own way. I was doing one sketch after another and one just kind of hit me as this is the one! This is her.

Since Angeline Jellybean is a very short book, I won’t ask for a summary, but I would like to know how each of you would describe or characterize Angeline. All authors and illustrators know that characters do become real.

Angeline is really your average little girl. She knows what she wants and she wants it NOW. She is strongly opinionated for her age. She is also, obviously, a very picky eater. She is pretty much the equivalent of me right now. Jellybeans are to her what chocolate is to me!

She reminds me a bit of my girlfriend and niece rolled into one, very independent, intelligent, and strong willed individual.

Crystalee, can we expect any more children’s projects from you? Please, share what, if possible?

I have many picture books in the works, some of which aren’t finished. I also just completed my very first young adult novel, which is written in poetry. I hope to have a long life as a published author. I think my YA manuscript will be the next project sent out for submission.

(We're hoping she considers 4RV again.)

Stephen, I know you have finished another project for 4RV already, but do you have any other ones in the works? What are they?

Yes, I just finished a book entitled Colors which is also available. I’m working on three other stories for 4RV. I’m very close to completing Would a Kanagaraffe make you Laffe? and will soon start If Fish Could Drive, and The Marshmallow Man.

Finally, what else would you like readers to know about Crystalee Calderwood and Stephen Macquignon?

I never thought I’d be here at my age. Or at all, really. But I finally feel like I’ve found my passion in writing children’s books. I’m really a big kid deep down inside, so the joy that writing children’s books gives me is immeasurable.

I love illustrating children’s books and hope to have a long career!

To order Angeline Jellybean visit or 4RV Bookstore.

Crystalee's Blog

Stephen's Blog

Tomorrow's stop on the Angeline Jellybean book blog tour will be Renaissance Seamstress

* * * * *

Also visit Vivian's Mysteries and Prairie Dog Cowboy



Helen Ginger said...

This was a fun interview. I love getting to meet the people behind the books. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I ordered my copy of Angeline Jellybean as soon as I heard it was available - and I was not disappointed! I can't want to see what else Crys has up her sleeve. Thanks to Viv for seeing the potential and giving this book a vehicle to soar!

Vivian Zabel said...

Helen, both Crys and Stephen are interesting people and do very good work.

Amy, I'm so glad you like the book. How did your youngsters like it?

Unknown said...

It's nice to meet you, Helen. Thanks for stopping by, Amy. I may ask you for a quote from your little Monkey about my book!

elysabeth said...

Acckk - I got a duplication error when trying to leave a message.

Sorry - Good interview. I agree with Helen; it's always fun finding out about the behind scenes in a children's book. Crys, if you ever figure out the how Angeline came about, you'll have to let us know - good job - see you all in the postings - E :)

Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said...

I loved the fact you hid your identity from Vivian. Now you know your manuscript won her over.

Great interview. Loved the illustrations.

Ransom Noble said...

Thanks for sharing the behind-the-scenes with both of them! I love hearing about it. I've been excited before I received my copy of the book, and I'll definitely be watching both their careers.

Rena Jones said...

Great interview -- thanks Vivian, Crystalee & Stephen!

I read Angeline Jellybean to my boys as soon as we got it. They laughed everytime Angeline said, "Blah!" Typical boys, I guess. It's a cute story with fun illustrations. My boys enjoyed seeing all the holidays included in it as well.

Anonymous said...

Nice interview. I'd like to hear/read more about who Crys studied with.

Nice choice of phtos for Crys and for the book illustrations.

Take care y'all. Look forward to reading the book soon.


Dawn Embers said...

Neat. The double interview is a little different and made it interesting. It's nice to read abut the book efforts from the illustrator's side.

Vivian Zabel said...

I'm so glad you're all enjoying the interview. I purposefully asked about the submission because I wanted everyone to know that no favoritism was shown.

Unknown said...

WildThing, perhaps that will be a topic over at my blog at sometime in the near future. ;-)

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Wonderful interview. The book sounds adorable and one to put on the list for my grandchildren.


Joyce Anthony said...

Great interview, everyone! I have always enjoyed meeting the people behind a book!

Beth Bence Reinke said...

Great interview of author and artist.

Crystalee, I'm glad to know that not all authors have big stories behind the origin of their book ideas. :o)