Meet Iza Trapani, Author/Illustrator – And A Giveaway!

Happy Monday Everyone!  I hope you all had a lovely weekend!

You know, I struggle a little with this blog schedule.  On the one hand, I don’t want to post more than three days a week.  On the other hand, I don’t want to cram so much into a post that you the one look at all that text and skip on to the next blog (I know – I haven’t quite mastered that one :)).  On the other hand, I don’t want to post twice in a day because that’s as bad as adding a day –  I know how busy everyone is, how many great blogs there are to read out there, and how limited your time is.  On the other hand (I believe we’re up to four hands now… so you see the struggle!) there’s is so much to share!!!  I had thought I could solve one problem by posting the monthly interviews on Saturday or Sunday, but I didn’t like that and neither, I think, did you.  We all need a break.  So I’m booting Oh Susanna this week and putting the interview in here.

And oh I have such a treat for you today!  Please join me in welcoming the incomparable Iza Trapani!

SLH:  When did you first become interested in writing and/or illustrating?  Was it something you always did, or something you came to later in life?
Author/Illustrator Iza Trapani
IT:  I have been an artist since I could hold a pencil in my hand (or lipstick for that matter; as a toddler, I used my mom‘s lipstick to paint a masterpiece on our wall.) I have also always enjoyed writing, especially poetry. In high school and college, while art was my main focus, I took as many creative writing courses as I could.
SLH:  Were you encouraged by family/teachers?
IT:  Yes, as long as I stayed away from the lipstick, my family encouraged me. They read and sang to me and instilled in me a lifelong love of art, language and music. Friends and teachers did as well, throughout my whole life. Their belief in me has always been and continues to be empowering.
SLH:  You are both an author and an illustrator.  Which comes first for you, the story or the art?
IT:  The story comes first, but I  envision the pictures as I write it. I want to be sure that the story suggests wonderful imagery and that scenes vary from page to page.
SLH:  Where/when/how do you get your ideas?
At the most inopportune times- in the middle of the night, in the shower, when I am driving…The idea for my first children‘s book, What am I? An Animal Guessing Game came to me  when I was on  a long mountain bike ride twenty-two years ago. When a turtle crosed the trail in front of me, I made up a little rhyming riddle about him. By the time I returned home an hour or so later, I had the book roughed out and some of the verses composed.  I  never really thought of myself as a writer until that point.  I had a portfolio packed with children‘s book art but not one story. And then one day (thank you turtle), I tapped into that part of my brain, and after that ideas kept pouring out.
SLH:  What has been the most challenging thing you have faced as an author/illustrator?
IT:  Maybe two things: The waiting- hearing back from editors and art directors, waiting for the book to be printed, waiting for reviews, waiting for royalty statements…The other challenge is  having my illustrations in progress (especially covers) reviewed by, not just the art director and editor, but the marketing team, the sales team, the editorial departments etc. I am very easy to work with and totally open to viable suggestions, but after a while it becomes art by committee.Have you ever heard the expression that a camel is a horse that was designed by a committee?Well, it‘s something like that!
SLH:  What has been the most wonderful thing that has happened to you as an author/illustrator?
IT:  I can‘t put my finger on one thing. There have been so many exciting and gratifying moments. What warms my heart the most is the love and loyalty from my generous fan base – the parents, the early educators, the children, the supportive fellow authors, like you, Susanna. I have met so many wonderful people on this great journey!
SLH:  What has been your best selling book so far?
IT:  The Itsy Bitsy Spider. I am proud (and amazed) to say it has sold over a million copies  and is still going strong.
SLH:  Why do you think that might have been?
IT:  Timing might have had something to do with it. There weren‘t many retellings of nursery rhymes at the time (that I know of ) and so I found a niche in the market. The book became instantly popular with teachers, especially Pre-K to K. I had very positive feedback from early educators telling me how useful the book was in teaching young children to read – that the kids recognized the title so they were eager to look inside the book, that they already knew the first verse so that gave them confidence to learn the other verses. Plus the book could be sung for even easier learning.

SLH:  Were you surprised by one book’s success over another’s?
IT:  With over twenty years of practice, both my writing and illustration have improved, so it surprises me that my fifteenth book, Froggie Went A-Courtin’, which has some of my best artwork, is not doing anywhere near as well as my second book,  The Itsy Bitsy Spider.
SLH:  Have all your titles earned out?
IT:  Fifteen of the seventeen books that I haveboth written and illustrated have earned out. I have also illustrated four books for other authors and two of those have earned out.
SLH:  Are they all still in print?
IT:  All but one of my titles, a non-nursery rhyme book, My Jack are still in print. Of the four books I illustrated for other authors, only one, The Wedding by Eve Bunting, is still in print.  I have worked with small presses, who keep books in print longer than some of the big houses. My books have had a long run. I have been very lucky.

SLH:  Have sales affected publishers’ willingness to do further projects in a good or bad way?
IT:  The publishing world is in such a sea of change right now and publishers are wary and much more discriminating. It’s a very tough market right now- even for those of us with good track records.
SLH:  Can you give us any hints about what you’re working on now?

IT:  I have a new book coming out Apri11, 2012- The Bear Went Over the Mountain. As for works in progress, I have a few children’s stories brewing and am  also working on the last chapter of an adult(maybe YA) memoir.

SLH:  What advice do you have for authors/illustrators just starting out?

IT:  Spend A LOT of time reading and studying childrens books. Read adult books on writing and/or illustrating. Practice and work hard on your stories and art. Take classes, workshops, join a critique group. Look honestly at your work and polish it to the best of your ability before submitting. There is a wealth of information on the internet. Check out writing/illustrating blogs.  Join the SCBWI  (society for childrens book writers and illustrators)who offer great advice and opportunities for those hoping to become published.

SLH:  Where can we find you?
IT:  My website:
Twitter: @IzaTrapani

And now the quick, fun questions for the end! 🙂

Agented or not? agented
Traditionally or self-published? traditionally
Hard copy or digital? hard copy
Apps or not? no
Left-handed or right?  I”m a rightie (hands only :-), though I have suspicions I was born leftie and my parents raised me to use my right hand. I lead with my left hand in so many things…Long answer!
Plotter or pantser? plonster
Laptop or desktop? laptop
Mac or PC? Mac
Day or night worker? day
Coffee or tea? Both
Snack or not? Snack
Salty or sweet? Yes!
Quiet or music? quiet when writing/music when illustrating
Cat or dog? One of each (although – SLH here – I’ve seen her dog and he’s more like a pony :))
Currently reading? Besides blogs? 🙂 Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman

Thank you so much for joining us, Iza!

And now, as if that very informative interview wasn’t enough, you all have a chance to win a signed, hardcover copy of Iza’s brand new book which isn’t even officially out until April 1!!!  To qualify, leave a comment below in which (in addition to whatever else you might or might not say) you include 4 rhyming lines about a bear 🙂  Qualified comments will be loaded into and one lucky winner will receive The Bear Went Over The Mountain before the rest of the world 🙂

Now, very quickly before we go:
1.  Look for Phyllis’s visit to Saskatchewan on Beth’s blog tomorrow (Tuesday, March 20) – it promises to be quite something!
2.  I will be featured on Children’s Literature Network’s new feature – Bookscope: The Story Behind The Story – with the story behind Not Yet, Rose tomorrow also! (link will be added when I have it!)
3.  Phyllis had an AMAZING visit to Missouri which you won’t want to miss (especially if you’re a CARS fan :)) so please visit Andi 🙂  And be sure to check in with Phyllis’s World Tour page for updates between blog posts here!

Thank you all for visiting with Iza!  Now write those 4 rhyming lines about a bear 🙂 – you could WIN!!!  (Oh, and please get your rhyming lines in by 5 PM EDT Tuesday March 20 – the winner will be announced Wednesday!)

108 thoughts on “Meet Iza Trapani, Author/Illustrator – And A Giveaway!

  1. Iza Trapani says:

    Terrific poem, Beth! So glad you enjoyed the interview, and Phyllis's World is such a great concept. That Susanna -she's a fun and clever one!

  2. Natalie says:

    I have a little bear who is a snuggly-wuggly guy.
    He always keeps me company so that I'll never cry.
    There's nothing really wrong with this as far as I can see–
    except my bear is forty-two and I am almost forty-three! 🙂

    Iza–I just loved your video at No Water River–you were so much fun! We have a couple your books in our collection, so count us as part of the MILLION–Wow!! Amazing work! 🙂

  3. Janet Johnson says:

    What a great interview! It's always fascinating to hear about others' journey. Hmmm . . . 4 rhyming lines about a bear?

    There once was a bear from calcutta
    Who always did say 'I don't want ta.'
    He'd gripe and he'd groan
    when invited he'd moan
    'Cause he just didn't like getting up-a.

    Okay, not great, but on the fly, this is what you get. 🙂

    Have a great day!

  4. Penny Klostermann says:

    Thanks for the great interview! I love your books, Iza. I am really looking forward to The Bear Went Over the Mountain. I grew up in Colorado. My three sisters and I sang The Bear Went Over the Mountain often as we actually climbed up the mountain :•)

    Phyllis should arrive in Abilene soon & I'm looking forward to her visit. I have so enjoyed her world tour!

    Here are my lines:
    A big black bear with “morning hair” saw his wild reflection,
    And so he grabbed a red toupee—a “morning hair” correction!
    But north winds came and blew toupee a southerly direction.
    I guess he's meant to have bad air…by natural selection!

  5. Penny Klostermann says:

    That should say “bad hair” in the last line!!! I didn't mean to have this bear passing gas 😦

  6. Stina Lindenblatt says:

    I could only imagine the damage today's lipsticks would do, with their ability to withstand eating, drinking, and kissing. Good thing I don't have any for my daughter to draw with. 🙂

    Loved your comment on my blog. Gotcha. No kissing worms, huh? 😀

  7. Tracy Bermeo says:

    What a great interview. I like Iza's snack choice. 🙂 Quick question (in lieu of a rhyme): What does “earning out” mean?

  8. Angela Brown says:

    I enjoyed this interview very much. I don't get to read much from an illustrator's point of view. This interview combined the writer and illustrator into one wonderful person and author. Thank you so much Susanna and Iza for sharing this with us today.

  9. Iza Trapani says:

    Glad you liked the interview and my snack choice! As for your question: Earning out is paying off an advance. Publishers pay authors an advance against royalties. Once they sell enough books to cover the advance, then the author starts earning royalties.

  10. Iza Trapani says:

    Oh I LOVE your poem, Penny! So funny- even without the passing gas! Your comment about the typo gave me a great belly laugh this morning. Thanks!

  11. Iza Trapani says:

    Penny, I was so excited about the gassy bear, I forgot to thank you for the nice words about my books. What a nice story about you and your sisters. I love Colorado- lived for a few months in Boulder when I was 19 and have returned many times for hiking, skiing and climbing. Such a beautiful place.

  12. Kirsten Larson says:

    The Itsy Bitsy Spider is still one of our favorites. I love books that retell classic songs/stories. Plus rhyming books are so easy for my son to read.

  13. Theresa Milstein says:

    How wonderful to see Iza Trapani here. The Itsy Bitsy Spider was a regular with both of my children. By looking at my copy, you can tell how much they loved it.

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