Bonnie Ferrante earned the #3 spot on The Gittle List for The Amida Tree, a book she wrote and illustrated. (Read my review.)
How did it feel to win a spot on The Gittle List Top 10? Had you ever gotten an award for any of your other work? It’s always lovely to have someone recognize your work as worthwhile. I have won several writing contests and been awarded three Ontario arts Council grants for novels in progress.
What’s your earliest memory of drawing or writing? I can’t remember writing my first story but I can remember creating it. I was a puppet fanatic and used to entertain other neighborhood children with my shows on the back step. Thirty years later I met one of my previous audience members and the first thing she mentioned was how much she had loved those little plays.
What children’s book contains your favorite illustrations? There are far too many wonderful illustrated books to pick just one: Zen Shorts, The Complete Adventures of Peter Rabbit, The Dragons Are Singing Tonight, Peppe the Lamplighter, Grandfathers Journey, The Eleventh Hour and more.
What is your favorite children’s book? This changes constantly as I become aware of new books. I do have a soft spot for The Jolly Postman or Other Peoples Letters by Janet and Allan Ahlberg.
Which artists or writers most influenced or inspired your work? Eric Carle, Graeme Base, Beatrix Potter, Dick Bruna, Ezra Jack Keats, Maurice Sendak, C. S. Lewis, E. B. White, Bill Martin Jr., Arnold Lobel, A. A. Milne, and many, many more.
Why did you decide to self-publish? I started late in life, trying to get published after I retired. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough healthy time left to wait while a manuscript circulates through publishing houses for months or even years.
Do you prefer to work digitally, by hand, or both? I used to work in acrylic and pencil crayon but since developing Parkinson’s disease, I now work digitally. It is a huge learning curve. As my tremor increases, that is also becoming more difficult. So now I’m trying out photography (which is always been a passion), in my books.
Tell us about your latest project. I have several things on the go. I switch back and forth between projects, letting them lie for a while in order to come back with fresh eyes. My newest publication is Tell Me Where: Animals and Babies. It is a collection of humorously modified photographs that teach children spatial concepts.
Tell us 3 strange and wonderful things about you. Not much pressure there! I am a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Lay Leader. I’m a seventh generation Canadian. I love doing all needle arts and am continuing to sew and stitch in spite of my tremor.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Make time to do what you love.
What do you do to market your books? I’m not very good about this. I am on word press, twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media. I do presentations at schools, libraries, and public venues.
Any advice for writers thinking about self-publishing a children’s picture book? Get it vetted by someone who is a tough critic and won’t spare your feelings before you publish. Pay someone if you have to.
Bonnie loves living in Northern Ontario, Canada even though she spends most of the long winter indoors writing. She chants, bikes, gardens, reads, stitches, volunteers, studies the Dharma, draws, photographs, plays/works on the computer, attends live theatre, enjoys being trounced in Scrabble by her husband, Fred, and is presently tackling decorating her new home. Her granddaughters keep her young. Once upon a time, she was a public grade school teacher.
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Bonnie, I enjoyed this interview. Your illustrations are lovely. Thanks for sharing!