I am so happy to interview fellow Page Street Kids author, Cristina Lalli on her debut picture book, Nola’s Scribbles Save the Day, about a little girl who loves her scribbles but gets discouraged when no one else seems to appreciate their beauty and wonder.
KC: Can you tell us how you came to writing and about your path to publication? Did you always know that you wanted to write children’s books?
CL: I have a few distinct memories as a child that set the stage for my eventual pursuit as an author/illustrator. Since at least Kindergarten, I knew I wanted to do something involving drawing, and I was often hand-making cards, poems, and little stories to give to my siblings or parents as gifts. I have really fond memories of visiting my local and school libraries and discovering how books can help communicate what you feel, especially ones that pushed boundaries a little or were just a little bit weird.
I’ve taken a very winding path to pursuing writing and illustrating, and ultimately to publication. My creative career began as a graphic designer, but then veered to volunteering in the Peace Corps, teaching special education in both New York and London, and then finally deciding to combine my interests in both literacy and design to create picture books. It would be another 4 years or so after that “decision” that my first picture book would come to publication.
KC: What an amazing journey! I love learning where the idea of a story came from. Can you tell us about the inspiration for NOLA’S SCRIBBLES SAVE THE DAY?
CL: I’ve always loved watching the intense concentration, confidence, and pure joy that young children have when they’re scribbling. I wanted to try to convey that turning point in a child’s life when they realize their “work” is being scrutinized by others, the frustration that ensues, and how they navigate it. Nola’s Scribbles began as my own scribbles and a vague idea about a young girl and her difficulties with the creative process. You could say it’s semi-autobiographical. The initial concept began about 5 years ago, while I was living and working for a few years in the UK and completing the MA Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art. It was an amazing program, but I felt inadequate compared to my peers, as it had been several years since I had been able to focus on honing my drawing skills. That struggle to find a balance between what I wanted to express, and how I was going to approach it, was my own parallel narrative.
KC: It’s so hard to not compare one’s own work to others’ I’m definitely guilty of that, too, but try to catch myself when I realize I’m doing it. What does your writing process look like? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Maybe somewhere in-between?
CL: Definitely somewhere in-between. It usually begins with one line or one visual idea that sticks in my mind, then I flesh it out from there. I divide it up as best possible to maintain a rhythm, but also to suit a 32-page picture book layout. This usually takes multiple tries and rewrites to get a decent rhythm. I try placing it into a blank dummy to see if it still feels rhythmic with the page turn. If there is a special “reveal” as in when Nola falls into her blank, I have to take that into consideration for a page turn and where it lands in the book as well.
KC: How many drafts of NOLA’S SCRIBBLES SAVE THE DAY did you write?
CL: Haha, honestly, I have no idea! There were so many drafts, so many changes, so many edits that I completely lost track. The story definitely evolved and changed in multiple directions until it finally felt like what I wanted to convey and what made sense to the editor!
KC: What would you say was your biggest challenge working on NOLA?
CL: The entire process was a learning experience for me- how to develop an initial idea to storyboard, character development, and being mindful that your illustrations and text complement each other, rather than saying the same thing in two different ways.
KC: What are you working on now and where can people follow you online?
CL: I’m currently wearing many hats and working on some new PB manuscripts, illustrations, and board book projects. I’m trying to work out a balance of new parenthood to my 7 month old baby, who has now become the center of my universe, with carving out some time for creative work. I now question myself with “how would “baby” respond to this?” It’s amazing watching her observe the world and getting acquainted with books. I’ve loved witnessing her auditory and visual literacy evolve, even if her latest fascination is chewing the cover.
Page Street Kids has donated a copy of Nola’s Scribbles Save the Day to one lucky reader. Just comment on the post by July 17th to be entered in the giveaway.
Follow Cristina here:
Facebook: Cristina Lalli
Cristina is an author/illustrator born in Akron, Ohio. She’s lived in three different countries on three different continents, and in six different cities. She has pursued visual communication and literacy as a designer, classroom teacher, and now picture book maker. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her family and their pup, Lun