Paulette Bogen has had her illustrations published in The New York Times, Ladies Home Journal, Business Week, Scholastic Magazines, Publishers Weekly, United Features Syndicate, and Newsday. She now writes and illustrates picture books. One of the books she illustrated, Chicks and Salsa, is featured on the PBS Children’s Show, Between the Lions!
Link to Between the Lion reading of Chicks and Salsa:
Bonnie Ferrante: Hi Paulette. Welcome to my blog. I love the story of your first “artistic experience”. Would you share it with us now?
Paulette Bogan: We had the chicken pox, all four of us! My mother called us into the playroom and handed each of us a paintbrush and said, “Get started! This wall is boring.” And so we spent all afternoon (and the next few days) painting a mural on the playroom wall.
Ferrante: That’s one amazing mother.
You have 15 books listed on Goodreads. Do you write/illustrate full-time? How many hours a day to put into your work?
Bogan: I am a full time author and illustrator. I am useless in the morning as far as drawing, or writing, or even thinking clearly! Mornings are for exercise, chores, or my favorite – sleeping in.
Bogan: After noon I am much more creative and productive. I will spend the afternoon in my studio drawing, writing, or procrastinating. (Sometimes my best ideas come when I am procrastinating.)
Ferrante: How did you go from illustrating to both illustrating and writing your own picture books?
Bogan: I didn’t start writing professionally until I was in my thirties! I went to Parsons School of design and majored in illustration. My mother always told me I should write and illustrate children’s books. Of course I didn’t listen! I graduated art school and went on to do political illustration and editorial illustration for quite a few years.
I finally listened to my mother when I was pregnant with my first child. After a lot of hard work and many rejections, Nancy Paulsen at Putnam Children’s Books published my first book, Spike, in 1998! I’ve never looked back. Moms are always right.
Ferrante: Which comes first for you, the illustrations or the story? What is your process?
Bogan: Sometimes I’ll have an idea for a story, and sometimes I’ll sketch a character and the story evolves around them. But because I’m an illustrator first, I always think visually.
My writing process always starts on a legal yellow pad. I revise and edit on paper making a lot of scribbly sketches in the margins. After many edits I’ll go to the computer. The act of typing gives me another chance to look at my words and make more revisions.
My next step is thumbnails. Thumbnails allow me to see the whole book at once and understand how the story is flowing. Finally I will make a dummy. I like to sew the pages together and form a blank book then glue stick my pages in.
Now it’s off to my editor for many more rounds of revisions and changes!
Ferrante: You were given Children’s Choice Book Award for Lulu the Big Little Chick. It’s about a little chick that runs away because she is sick of being told she’s too little to do things. How do you put yourself in the perspective of a small child?
Bogan: I get inspiration and ideas for my stories from my childhood, my children, and everyday life! I never try to teach a lesson.
For instance, I was watching home video of my daughter Sophia when she was about six years old directing a play that starred her two little sisters and the dog. She was very bossy, but also very direct and concise about what she wanted. So when I was writing Bossy Flossy I tried to keep in mind her innocence, her directness, and her frustration. If I switch into thinking like an adult my writing becomes preachy and didactic.
Ferrante: Virgil & Owen and Virgil & Owen Stick Together are both “Mom’s Choice Awards Recipient” Gold Medal for Picture Books. Both books are about friendship. Why do you think they appeal so much to parents?
Bogan: Making friends is hard! Virgil and Owen are two “kids” with completely different personalities. Owen, the polar bear is quiet, steady, and sweet. He likes to think things through and take his time. Virgil, on the other hand can’t do things quickly enough, has a hard time sitting still, and is NOT a “look before you leap” kind of guy.
Both Virgil & Owen and Virgil & Owen Stick Together provide an opportunity to talk about how friendships work, the importance of sharing, learning patience, and accepting each other’s differences. Virgil and Owen show that “polar opposites” can be friends.
Click here to buy Virgil & Owen
Ferrante: Spike in The City won the Children’s Book Council Children’s Choice Award in 2001. Spike in the Kennel was a 2002 IRA-CBC Children’s Choice. Tell us about Spike and why you think he appeals to readers.
Spike is an everyday, normal kind of guy. Sometimes he’s bored, sometimes he’s scared, and sometimes he makes mistakes. But like most children he learns a little each time he goes through something.
Click here to buy Spike in the City
Ferrante: It seems that your books have messages for young children. Do you feel it is important for authors to help instill good values and social skills in their readers?
Bogan: I think if an author tries to hard to teach a lesson the book won’t work. The message has to come naturally through the characters and their personalities and the situations they get themselves into.
Ferrante: You have two books in progress, Bart the Bloodhound and One Dog. Can you tell us a little about them?
Bogan: Bart the Bloodhound is in contract with Henry Holt for Young Readers and is slated to come out Spring 2018. Bart is from a vampire family of dogs, but he is more “doggie” than vampire. He’s finding himself!
One Dog is a counting to ten book about a little boy who is a bit bored with his one sleepy pet – Dog. He has a dream that night and has quite an adventure with his not so sleepy dog! The two wake up happy to be together. One Dog is looking for a publisher!
Ferrante: If, for your next birthday, someone offered to make you the ultimate dessert of your choice, what great concoction would you request? Be deliciously specific.
Bogan: The ultimate dessert for me would last all day! For breakfast I’d start with a black and white milkshake so thick you need a spoon. Then for lunch I would like an angel food cake with chocolate icing. For dinner I’d like a Chocolate Euphoria Cookie Bar, which consists of crushed Oreos, melted butter, chocolate drops, cereal, condensed milk, marshmallows, chocolate syrup, and white chocolate drops all layered and baked together!
I would end the day with a midnight snack of one scoop of coffee ice cream, and one scoop of sea salt and caramel ice cream.
Ferrante: When people find out that you are a picture book writer, what is the most typical question that they are likely to ask you regarding your job?
Bogan: #1 “Where do you get your ideas from?”
#2 “How do you get published?”
Ferrante: Suppose that instead of having a name, you had a letter, and people would always refer to you as that letter. Which letter of the alphabet would you want to take the place of your name?
Well, my initials are PBJ, which is fun! But if I have to pick just one letter I am very attached to the letter P.
Please come visit me at www.paulettebogan.com. and sign up for my newsletter to find out about new books, fun activities and appearances!
Listen to Paulette read Spike in the City
Listen to Paulette read Lulu the Big Little Chick
Check out Paulette on facebook
A review of Bossy Flossy appeared on this blog on January 6, 2017.
Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.