Tuesday, March 3, 2009


When I speak at schools and conferences, people want to know how I work with my illustrator. They are shocked when I inform them that we don't even speak during the process. They seem even more surprised when I tell them that doesn't bother me. I am not an artist, not in the drawing and painting sense anyway. I love discovering what an illustrator brings to the story. Maybe I'm able to accept this better than some writers because of what I heard a famous illustrator say at a conference about the process. He said, "The writer thinks it's her book, but when I get the manuscript it becomes mine."

Magical things can happen because of this belief. I think that's what happened when Gabi Swiatkowska agreed to illustrate my first picture book, Waiting for Gregory. As one reviewer said, "Kimberly Willis Holt must have thought she hit the jackpot."

Gabi Swiatkowska is a talented artist and she has the awards to prove it. Among her many recognitions, is the Ezra Keats New Illustrator Award in 2004.

Her work delights with whimsy and realism. How does she do that?

Shortly after our book came out, serendipity played a role in our relationship. Gabi had recently moved to a little village outside of Krakow, Poland. And I had just received an invitation to speak at the American School of Warsaw. A few months later my family and I waited outside a church in the Krakow Market Square, holding copies of Waiting for Gregory. Snow began to fall. Across the square I saw a young woman waving at us. Then I noticed she was holding a copy of Waiting for Gregory. For a couple of hours our families joined together and ate lunch at a cafe.

"How does the process begin for you?" I asked her.

"It begins with one line," she said.

Thursday we will see where this artist makes her first lines that lead to her brilliant creations. Please, join us then.

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