My writing process:

First, as I said, comes the idea. More often than not, I discuss the idea with my editor, Margaret Frith, and my art director, Cecilia Yung.

We bounce it around like a ball, all over the place, adding new stuff, rejecting other stuff. Then comes the moment when I have to sit down and write the story. I always make sure I know my characters and exactly how they "speak." I write my first draft long hand, then I read it and make changes, corrections and things like that. Next, my assistant, Bob Hechtel, types it for me. I read it again, maybe making even more changes and Bob re-types it for me.

It is time to send it to Margaret. She looks at it, reads it, of course, maybe two or three times, then she makes suggestions. We talk about the changes and eventually we have a story! And a book is on its way.

My illustrating process:

I will share with you how I go about illustrating a book. Later on - in the future - I'd like to share how I make make my paintings, but for now, I'll stick to illustrating my books.

The story is all finished. The next step is to "break it up" into the various pages. We (Margaret, Cecilia and I) also decide what size and exactly how many pages it will be. This is called making a DUMMY. Sometimes, Margaret will "break it up" for me to save time. She also likes doing that! Of course, I can change things if I want.

Next, the text is set in type so I'll know just what it will look like. Sometimes Cecilia sends me several samples of type to look at. Then, the art department sends me layouts of every page so I'll know exactly where the type will go and where my pictures will go. I can change the layouts if I want to, too.

Meanwhile, I have been doing sketches of the various characters, especially if they are new characters (I know exactly what Strega Nona looks like so I don't have to sketch her).

If my book is going to take place in a different place like Mexico or Italy, I'll look at dozens and dozens of photos of those places to "exercise" my imagination. Sometimes, but not too often, I will do VERY rough sketches of the whole book in the DUMMY.

What I really like to do is to just jump right in on my good paper and start lightly sketching with a pencil and my most important tool, my eraser.

Then I do the "finished art." If I make a mistake - and I often do - I rip up the page and start again.

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