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Interview with Dorothia Rohner

HAPPY OCTOBER, everyone! From now through 2020, I’ll be featuring interviews with all the new authors &/or illustrators of the debut group Perfect 2020 PBsToday, I’m delighted to chat with talented author-illustrator Dorothia Rohner. Her book, I Am Goose!, illustrated by Vanya Nastanlieva, releases from Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) on February 18th, 2020.

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Welcome Dorothia! Congratulations on your-soon-to-be-released picture book! Obviously, it stars a goose (ha). What else can you tell us about this story?

Hi Katelyn, Thank you so much for the opportunity to share a bit about my upcoming book. The story features a menagerie of animals playing a game of Duck, Duck, Goose. This includes hungry Fox, chicken Chicken, puzzled Pig, disappointed Do-do, slow but generous Turtle along with rule following Rabbit and a trio of wisecracking squirrels. When self-centered and not-so-bright Goose joins in to play, the game turns into utter chaos.

Describe your journey to publication. How long have you been pursuing this dream?

Like many picture book creators, I started a long time ago! I’ve been sending postcards out to art directors for quite some time. My first published illustration appeared in Cricket Magazine. That was way back in 2004 —so, a long time ago! My first two illustrated picture books Effie’s Image (N.L Sharp, Prairieland Press, 2005), and Numbers in a Row, An Iowa Numbers Book (Patricia Pierce, Sleeping Bear Press, 2006) were a huge learning experience for me. After that, I began writing my own stories. I did not share any of them until I joined a writers group and rejoined SCBWI. That is when I began focusing my attention on both writing and illustrating
children’s books.

What was the most pivotal moment in your career? 

In 2014, there were two events that boosted my confidence and got me to believe more in my work. On a whim, I entered the SCBWI Bologna Illustrator Gallery in 2014 and to my surprise, “Firefly Forest” won 1st place. Later that year, I was chosen as one of six illustrators for the SCBWI summer LA portfolio mentorship. A couple of years later, I signed with an agent and she sold my first manuscript (I Am Goose) in 2016.

From what age did you consider yourself a writer &/or illustrator? What spurred you to pursue this path professionally? 

I’ve always loved to create, draw and build things. My siblings and I were fortunate to have a mom and dad that valued creativity, nature and art. In high school, I went to a vocational training center and earned an associates degree in technical illustration. That led to a job in a patent office for IBM illustrating patent drawings. After that, I worked for a mining company inking geologic maps. I attended several universities studying art, art history and graphic design. Eventually I combined my love of nature and science and earned a degree in natural science illustration (Biological Pre-Medical Illustration, Iowa StateUniversity) That lead to a job in animation, both scientific and gaming, botanical gift design, licensing and graphic design. While working full time, I painted in the
early morning and late at night to pursue my personal projects that included botanical art painting and illustrations for children. I enjoyed working in all of the various art fields, but deep down, I had a burning desire to create books for children.

What do you like to write/draw/paint about, in general? What are some preferred genres and media?

I enjoy writing funny books with characters that children will relate to. I like to laugh or cry when I read kids books, or be utterly amazed, so that is what I aim for. I enjoy painting unique and magical worlds usually with a nature theme. I live in the woods, so am influenced more by that than cities. I like to play with luminous light, the scale of animals and children to make up imaginative places where stories can happen. Lately, I have been experimenting and enjoying using pigments, oils, cold wax and collage to create these worlds. I also love to draw with ball point pen, watercolors and Inktense pencils.

What does a typical day in your life look like?

I like to wake up slowly so I can recall my dreams and allow my subconscious to flow into my waking hours. Weather permitting, I sit on my porch with a nice cup of coffee and cream of course, watch the sun rise over the trees and listen to the birds. This is one of my favorite times of the day. If it’s cold, I settle into my cozy tattered butterfly chair where I can read my daily meditations and plan my day with what I want to accomplish. This is also a time where I look at art, sketch, write or jot down ideas for stories. After that, I tidy things up, check emails, yoga, then get head to my studio to work. I take frequent walks to clear my mind and get outside. I enjoy having the freedom and flexibility to plan my time throughout the day. Sometimes I stop work early and spend time with my husband and dog, other days I like to work late in my studio. Currently, I am adding on a space for my studio with windows that look into the forest. I can’t wait to get it all set up.

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What feeds your creativity as an artist? Or helps you out of that “funk”? 

Writing doesn’t put me in a funk because I know I can always revise and keep thinking about how to rewrite. Usually my funky fog settles in when I’m not satisfied with my art. It has taken awhile, but I’ve finally accepted that this is part of the creative process. I like to ignite that little spark by going for a walk and being in nature. I am an avid gardener and digging in the dirt, watching the bees, butterflies, weeding, helps me to get out of my own head. I also peruse art books and create studies of other peoples’ work. I love watching artists create on youtube also. This always helps me to feel inspired again.

Now, back to your debut, with that burning question: How did the idea of  I Am Goose! come to you? Do you remember your lightbulb moment?

I Am Goose! was one of the ideas that I jotted down when I participated in Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month–the name has since changed to Storystorm.) It was inspired by the children at Head Start where I volunteer. Duck, Duck, Goose is one of their favorite games on the playground. None of the children seem to know the rules, but they all get so excited and want to play anyhow. I find it hilarious and chaotic. Each of the animals
in the book are based on the personalities of the children. That was the spark that led me to find a story about the game of Duck, Duck, Goose.

You are about to see the publication of your first (authored) picture book! What’s next? What do you still hope to accomplish in the future?

Thanks for asking this. I have a backlog of dummy books and stories–all at a different phases. My agent, Allison Remcheck has been a tremendous supporter of my work and has helped me to prioritize my manuscripts and dummy book ideas. I have one manuscript out on submission, Maggie and Esmerelda. It is a story about a little girl whose best friend is a chicken. I’m keeping my fingers crossed! I’m also revising a dummy book about moon-shadows and also finishing up a fairy book (pop-up) that I started many years back.

Any promotional events we can look forward to meeting you at?

I’ll be planning some local bookstore signings and events (Central Iowa and the Midwest). I’m sure at some point, I will be heading to my home town (Boulder, Colorado) and other places where my friends and family live (Austin, Texas) to do events. I’m researching some book fairs and will be available to do school and library visits. I’ll post the events at my website: www.dorothiarohner.com

You’re an inspiration, Dorothia! Any parting advice for other creatives?

Create what you love and be unique. Study what other artists are doing and what is getting published, but in the end, stay true to yourself. Experiment, revise, have fun. Find writer and illustrator friends in your community (online or in real life) They are some of the kindest, most talented, encouraging people on this planet. Join SCBWI! Keep working, be patient.

As an artist and writer, living and sharing a creative life while balancing it with family and friends is a top priority for me. Besides working on creating books for children, I’ll be launching a newsletter/vlog at the beginning of the 2020: Creative Moments—Creative LifeA resource for parents and teachers who would like to encourage and nurture creativity in their children. It will include various ideas, activities and quotes that will help to cultivate little moments of awareness and spark curiosity. I have some fun give-aways planned. Anyone can sign up now at my website.

Wonderful. Here’s wishing you every future success, Dorothia!

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These days, preorders are vital to a new author’s career. To support Dorothia and her book, preorder I Am Goose! through any of the following retailers:

I Am Goose!

And to see more of Dorothia’s work, visit her…

Website: www.dorothiarohner.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/dorothiar
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dorothiar/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dorothiarohner.illustration
Perfect 2020 Picture Book Debut Author Website: https://perfect2020pbs.weebly.com
KidLitArtists: http://kidlitartists.blogspot.com

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