Learn about author-illustrator Mélanie Watt.
Mélanie, you last visited Cynsations in May 2006. Could you update us on your new releases, highlighting as you see fit?
Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend (Kids Can, 2007)
Chester (Kids Can, 2009)
Chester's Back! (Kids Can, 2008)
Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach (Kids Can, 2008)
Have I Got a Book for You! (Kids Can, 2009)
Scaredy Squirrel at Night (Kids Can, 2009)
Chester's Masterpiece (Kids Can, 2010)
Scaredy Squirrel Has a Birthday Party (Kids Can, 2011)
You're Finally Here! (Hyperion, 2011)
Scaredy Squirrel and Chester (the ego driven cat) have become series. I have worked on different styles of picture books and always try to reinvent my storytelling.
Over the past few years, how have you grown in your art--both visual and literary?
Depending on the message I am trying to communicate, I like to reinvent the look of my characters, the graphic design of the books and the style of the fonts. I see the book as an object, an entity that brings an overall experience to a reader.
For example, Have I Got a Book for You! is about a salesman (fox) that is trying to sell you the book. I wanted a 1970s feel and look, and this decision inspired me throughout my creation process. I enjoy working on books and not knowing where exactly the process will take me.
Another example, with my new book You're Finally Here! It’s entirely rendered digitally and very different from Scaredy and Chester’s look and feel.
I really wanted this book to be kind of a reflection of our digital era and our approach to communication in these fast-paced times.
I thought it would be fascinating to have a character that only focuses on what could have been rather than appreciate the quality time that he’s spending with the reader in that moment.
I enjoy translating social topics, human behaviour and communication and boiling it down to what I feel is the essence. I start with a message or topic (like our fast-paced lives) and then decide on a new art style, then an animal that I feel could embody that message.
I think the only way I can keep pushing myself is by taking chances and trying new things.
Sounds like I learned a little from Scaredy's adventures.
Of late, we've seen media coverage, both positive and negative, on the future of the picture book. What's your take?
Creative ideas are communicated in many ways and formats. Adaptation is key.
What's new with my pal, Scaredy Squirrel?
Well, he’s made a friend, been to the beach, had a few sleepless nights, and planned a germ-free party. His fearful personality keeps inspiring me every day.
Also, we are starting to work on a Scaredy game, and it’s going to be really exciting!
Plus, Nelvana and YTV have created an adaptation of Scaredy Squirrel for an older TV audience.
WARNING: Different look, new setting, and this older Scaredy character has a job! Can you believe it?
Cyn Note: Don't miss Scaredy's official facebook page!
What words of wisdom do you have for your fellow picture book creators--new and established--who're sometimes fighting to keep the faith?
It’s best not to spend too much time worrying about the challenges of the book industry. Try to focus on creating. And keep going at it and reworking what you have.
Be true to yourself, and challenge yourself constantly. If you don’t believe in it, no one else will.
Will you be on the road any time soon? Where can your fans look for you?
Absolutely! I will be at the ALA in New Orleans in June.
See Mélanie at these signings:
-Kids Can Press, Sunday, June 26: Scaredy Squirrel Has a Birthday Party
-Disney-Hyperion, Monday, June 27: You're Finally Here!
What new books are on the horizon?
Probably a new Scaredy Squirrel book, and I am getting kid’s requests for the next Chester adventure, so who knows!
Also, I am trying to create a book about a subject I have had in mind for nearly a decade! I never seem to get around to it. It’s kind of challenging topic, but I am obsessed with making it come to life!