Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Barbara Azore and Georgia Graham

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Ten Questions with Barbara Azore and Georgia Graham

Wanda’s back! This wonderful author and illustrator team brings another Wanda adventure to life with humor and wisdom. Open Book talks to author Barbara Azore and illustrator Georgia Graham about their latest Wanda book, Wanda's Freckles (Tundra Books).

Open Book: Toronto:

Tell us about your book, Wanda's Freckles.

Barbara Azore:

Wanda’s Freckles is about a little girl who likes herself just the way she is. That includes her freckles, but when some boys laugh at her and tell her she is ‘spotty’ she begins to doubt her own feelings about her "gifts from the sun." She tries without success to hide the now hated brown spots and uses various methods to cover them up. Thanks to words from her mother, a neighbor and Wanda’s own sense of self worth she is able to accept her freckles and realize that her tormenters are the ones with problems.

OBT:

Describe the collaboration process between author and illustrator.

BA:

If I want an illustration to depict something specific, I ask Georgia to include it and she is very obliging. I love her illustrations. We were able to meet in a professional capacity when Tundra sent us to a conference of librarians to sign books and again when we did a workshop at a conference. I think I am correct in saying that we have become friends and I would be delighted to be able to continue working with Georgia.

Georgia Graham:

Barbara was working at her granddaughter's school library when I came to do an author/illustrator presentation in about 2004. She told me about her Wanda stories and asked me if I would be interested in illustrating them. I was definitely interested but I didn't think anything would really result. Barbara recommended me to Tundra to be the illustrator of her Wanda series. (Thank you Barbara) I have illustrated three Wanda books and a couple other books for Tundra. What a wonderful opportunity! Barbara has never told me what or how to draw and she has never told me to change anything. She leaves that up to the editor and art director at Tundra. Barbara is very professional.

OBT:

What was your first publication?

BA:

My first published works were several articles in the Voices column of the Edmonton Journal newspaper. My first published children’s story was Wanda and the Wild Hair.

GG:

Comet's Tale in 1982 - it’s crappy! Don't look for it.

OBT:

What's the best advice you ever received as a writer/artist?

BA:

I don’t think I can quote any word of advice I was given, but two people made me believe in myself as a writer. They are Mary Dawe, whose writing course I attended in 1997, and Linda Goyette when she was the Writer-in-Residence at the Stanley Milner Library in Edmonton.

GG:

That getting rejection letters happens to all of us.

OBT:

What books made a great impression on you when you were a child?

BA:

The first book was When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne. I learned to read from listening to my much older sister reading it to me. The same sister unwittingly provided me access to the second, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca which I read when I was ill with measles or mumps and about seven years old. My mother never read the book, but when I requested something to read while confined to bed she went to the bookshelf in my sister’s bedroom and came back with the aforementioned novel. My sister was horrified when she came home from work to find me reading it, but I loved the story so much that when the movie was made she took me to see it. For me the story was like a fairytale. The plain (unnamed) heroine was the Princess, Maxim de Winter the handsome Prince and Mrs. Danvers the witch. The adult themes went over my head. As a result I have always felt that censorship of books for children is unnecessary. If the children understand the unwholesome contents it is too late and if they don’t they will either ignore them or ask about them which will give responsible adults a chance to discuss the subject with them.

GG:

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

OBT:

Describe your ideal work environment.

BA:

My ideal working environment is when I am alone. I compose my work in bed or while walking in the ravines around Edmonton. I am an early morning person and when I wake too early I lie in bed writing in my head. I do the same while walking so by the time I sit down at the computer the story is complete except for the editing. With something longer than a children’s picture book I do the same but chapter by chapter. At that point I like to have the radio on the CBC channel playing in the background.

GG:

For the first draft: a paper and pencil in a cozy chair.

OBT:

If you had to choose three books as a “Welcome to Canada” gift, what would those books be?

BA:

The Windflower by Gabrielle Roy, The Birth House by Ami McKay, The Story That Brought Me Here by Linda Goyette.

GG:

Carrier and Cohen’s The Hockey Sweater, Bannatyne-Cugnet and Moore’s A Prairie Alphabet and, of course, The Lime Green Secret!

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

BA:

I belong to two book clubs so I read at least one book every week. The last two were Salman Rushdie’s, Midnight’s Children and Gentlemen & Players by Joanne Harris, which I am still reading. For my own choice in the last month I have read Embracing the Wide Sky by Daniel Tammet.

GG:

I am just finishing The Shack by Paul Young. I'm starting Alice Munro's Best. My favorite book all year has been The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (WOW).

OBT:

What advice do you have for writers and illustrators who are trying to get published?

BA:

Develop a thick skin, a sense of humour, patience and find a published author who is willing to read your work.

GG:

Develop your skill. A publisher will only choose what they like.

OBT:

What is your next project?

BA:

I have a novel for older children with a publisher at the moment. If it is not accepted I shall be sending it out to someone else. I also have another children’s picture book story in the computer waiting for the time and energy to submit it to the rounds of publishers and an idea for another which has not materialized yet.

GG:

I'm starting to render the colour illustrations for a realistic book that I also wrote for Fitzhenry and Whiteside. When I finish it in May 2010, I'll start illustrating my second in the Nana series for Tundra Books. Huge fun!


Barbara Azore was born in England and emigrated to Canada in 1967. She spent many years working for the Edmonton Public School Board in elementary and junior high-school libraries. Since retiring, she has had articles published in the Edmonton Journal and a parenting magazine. Barbara Azore lives in Edmonton.

Photo of Barbara Azore by Tina Emoustasa.


Georgia Graham, was born and raised in Calgary, has been using chalk pastels since grade four. After graduating from the Alberta College of Art, she began using her artwork to entertain children in her Sunday school class. She has illustrated many children’s books, including the critically acclaimed Wanda and the Wild Hair and Wanda and the Frogs, written by Barbara Azore. Georgia Graham lives on a tree farm in central Alberta with her husband and dog, Ginger. For more information about Georgia Graham, visit her website at www.georgiagraham.com.

Photo of Georgia Graham by Penny Moffatt.

For more information about Wanda’s Freckles, please visit the Tundra Books website at www.tundrabooks.com.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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