Award winning children’s book illustrator Tanja Bauerle

My guest today is Tanja Bauerle, an award winning children’s book illustrator who is now developing her own children stories. Here is a quick glimpse into her creative mind and working process, a look at her latest projects and her path to getting her own writing published.

The Park Our Town Built

The mayor wants a community park and safe playground for the children. She enlists a group of kids to join her  to ask one of the citizens to donate some of his land. When he agrees, he joins all the families and friends who set out to build swings, benches, gardens, and a fountain. There is excitement and a sense of purpose to build the park for all to enjoy. The whole town comes together to create a beautiful park and celebrate with a grand picnic and beautiful fireworks when the job is done.

The narrative text builds line by line and page by page, using repetition and imagery to create a charming story for young readers. Vocabulary recognition and matching pictures to the text helps readers gain confidence in both comprehension skills and predicting a sequence of events.

This book is available in both English format as well as concept bilingual, where the story is told primarily in English but Spanish is added as it pertains to the concept within the story.

Full Color • 9″ by 11″ • 32 pages • Reading Level 3.9 • Jacketed Cover or Paperback

Publication Date: May 2011

Story by: Diane Gonzales Bertrand
Illustrated by: Tanja Bauerle
Published by: Raven Tree Press

English with Spanish
ISBN-13: 978-1-936299-12-6

English only
ISBN-13: 978-1-936299-14-0

Book Blog: http://theparkourtownbuilt.wordpress.com/

Tell us about your latest illustrated book.

Illustrating “The Park Our Town Built” was a very rewarding process for me. I decided that I wanted to add a variety of games into the artwork in order to make the reading experience more interactive. Having two kids myself, I tried to think about what excites them about reading a picture book. Both are very eager to read books that get them more involved in the story, rather than a simply cursory read.

I added a hidden picture key into the end papers, have hidden a worm on each page, and incorporated a counting game into the illustrations. Each of these activities encourages the reader to look closely and examine the art work. What more can an illustrator ask for? Check out http://theparkourtownbuilt.wordpress.com/hidden-inside-the-book/ for a more detailed description of the games inside the book.

What gets you excited about your books?

My favorite part of being an illustrator is to visit schools and attend story readings at book stores and libraries. Talking to kids about illustration and teaching them about what it takes to bring a book to life is so rewarding. There is nothing quite like seeing kids admire your illustrations. During a school visit, I like to show the rudimentary thumbnail sketches that begin the development of an illustration. These are little more than scribbles and stick figures because they are designed to capture the basic idea of what I am trying to show. At this point, the light bulb lights up and they realize that these look very similar to what they might draw themselves. The realization sets in that if you continue to work and refine your sketches, they can eventually turn into a final illustration. This connection with the kids is so incredibly gratifying.

What made you decide to pursue writing?

I love illustrating and it is something that I will always do. However, there are so many ideas that I have that I would like to see in book form. Instead of waiting for some of these projects to land on my desk, I started writing them myself. The unexpected thing of working in my journal was that I really love writing. Once I committed to fleshing out my ideas, I found that more and more came to me.

Do you have a specific way to get ideas?

Ideas and inspiration are everywhere for me – playing with my girls, going on a hike, or even doodling in my sketchbook. An idea might start with a word or a sentence from one of my girls. Or it might be something visual that gets me thinking. If something strikes me, I write it down and it grows from there.

Describe your writing process.

Coming from the illustration side of the book process, I probably approach writing from a different way than most writers. I see spreads or spot illustrations in my mind. Once I have a story concept, I try to see if I can come up with a visual map of the book first. There needs to be enough visual interest, there need to be page turners, and the visuals should be able to stand on their own. After I’ve mapped things out, I create a story breakdown and note down what each page should contain. As I focus on picture books, I try to be very conscious of the word count and keep in mind that the illustrations can carry much of the information I am trying to convey. The next step is to put it all together in a cohesive written way. Then, I massage and edit, play with voice and language, repeat this many times, until the story tells me it’s done. Then I start the actually drawings for my dummy. I love what I do.

What is next for you?

I am actively looking for representation at this time. While doing this, I am continuing with my drawing and writing, and taking on illustration projects that come my way.

How have you dealt with rejection?

Rejection is part of this industry whether you are a writer or an illustrator. Remember, it is not personal. Take rejection as fuel to take your work to the next level. When I am disheartened about this, I try to remember what Tim Travaglini said at our local SCBWI-AZ conference a few years ago, when he was Senior Editor at G. P. Putnam’s Sons. To paraphrase his very wise words, he said that over the centuries, people have been killed over what they had written. Keeping this in mind, who are you to give up writing (or illustrating), after only a few rejection letters. It was a light bulb moment for me.

Do you have any advice for writers or illustrators?

This sounds a little cliché but follow your passion. Be committed to what you love and continue to refine and develop your craft. Find support from like-minded individuals but take excessive criticism with a grain of salt. If you are passionate, positive, committed, and hard working, you will be amazed at what will come to you.

Is your hair really pink?

Yes, well part of it is anyway. I actually had a very specific reason for coloring my hair. Over the years, I have been illustrating the work of other authors and as a result put my own stories on hold. Being passionate about the characters and stories in my mind, I decided that I really needed a reminder to help me focus on my own work. So here comes the pink hair. Each morning when look at myself in the mirror I have a visual reminder to help me focus on my own stories. Has it worked? Most definitely. J

About the Tanja Bauerle

Tanja Bauerle is an award winning illustrator who escaped from many years in the corporate arena of design to pursue her love for children’s book illustration. “The Park That Our Town Built” is the third picture book that she has illustrated. She is also illustrating the “Wright on Time” chapter book series. Tanja is currently focusing on developing her own stories and is excited and hopeful to soon be published as both writer and illustrator.

Originally from Germany, Tanja grew up outside Melbourne, Australia, and now lives near Phoenix, Arizona, with her husband, Kevin, her daughters, Isabelle and Zoe, her menagerie of two Golden Retrievers and three cats. She is a member of the SCBWI and always working on improving her skills. In her free time, Tanja loves to go kayaking and camping with her family and has recently started volunteering at a local horse rescue.

You can connect with Tanja through:

her website: http://tanjabauerle.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/tanjabauerle

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/tanja.bauerle

her Facebook Illustration Page :

http://www.facebook.com/tanja.bauerle#!/pages/Tanja-Bauerle-Illustration/191904667517524

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