Monday, December 15, 2008

Michigander Monday: Carolyn Reed Barritt

I'm pleased to welcome Carolyn Reed Barritt to Michigander Monday!

Debbie: Tell us a little about yourself.

Carolyn: I grew up in rural Minnesota, 8 miles from the nearest town (of 800 people) and about 30 miles south of Duluth. I spent a great deal of my childhood roaming around in the woods surrounding my home. I went to college in St. Paul, MN where I met a native Michigander and moved to Michigan when that Michigander (now my husband) decided to do his Master's and doctorate at UM. We lived in Ann Arbor for a long time, then moved to Tacoma, Washington. In 2003 we both decided to quit our jobs (I was an art director and he was an assistant professor) to pursue different careers -- illustrating for me and writing for him. We sold our house and nearly all our belongings and became caretakers so we could draw and write and live inexpensively. We have been caretakers in Washington state, Ottawa, Canada and on an island off the coast of Salem, Massachusetts (where we were the only people on island for most of the winter.) Now we live in Ann Arbor in the winter and Arizona in the summer as we are switching back and forth with my mother-in-law, alternating between her two homes. She's in Arizona in the winter, we're there in the summer; she's here in Ann Arbor in the summer and we're here in the winter. Essentially we get the worst of the weather, which is what caretakers usually get. And yes, it's hot in Arizona in the summer, but it is nice to never feel cold.

Debbie: And, of course, we want to know all about your book!

Carolyn: I illustrated, The Day the Dragon Danced, written by Kay Haugaard, and published by Shen's Books. Shen's hired me after I sent them one of my self-promo postcards. The book came out in the fall of 2006. It's about a girl who goes with her grandmother to a Chinese New Year's Day parade where her father is one of the dragon dancers. It's colorful and bright and I learned a lot doing it; both about illustrating a children's book and the Chinese New Year.

Debbie: Other books or projects on the horizon?

Carolyn: I have 3 books that I've written and made dummies for circulating to publishers right now. ("James Builds an Airplane," "Idgy," and "Fetch") I get a good number of personal responses (along with some form rejections, of course) back in my SASEs, but none of the books have been picked up so far. I write and sketch the story at the same time then eventually create a dummy which is a complete paper sample of the book made up of ink sketches and the text. I also paint one or two sample final illustrations which I include with the dummy when I send it to a publisher. It takes a long time for me to get a book ready to send. I'm also working on a 4th book right now which I hope to have ready to start sending out in February or March of 2009. In the mean time I've done some picture-book type illustrations for clients, but no other books yet. I'd love to illustrate someone else's text again as well as have my own books published and I'd really love to do illustrations for a chapter book which would let me work in black and white. I also market myself to the "adult" world (editorial, advertising, etc.). Samples of my illustration can be seen on my website:

Debbie: Any upcoming appearances?

Carolyn: When The Day the Dragon Danced came out I had a reading at Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor and did a school visit and I realized how bad a case of stage fright I have. It's pretty pathetic that a room full of 6 year olds can give me the shakes. When my own books get published I'll have to decide whether or not I do any more appearances.

Debbie: Your favorite place in Michigan (or places, if you can't settle on just one)?

Carolyn: I actually really like being in Ann Arbor. I like the fact that I can walk everywhere in the city and I love the variety of shops, bookstores, and restaurants and markets. My husband and I used to live downtown and we were able to walk out the door and go anywhere in town. For a while we didn't own a car. I also really love the Leland area. My husband's family used to have a cabin up there on Lake Michigan and we spent a lot of time sitting on the beach. The land is now part of a national park, so sadly the cabin is gone.

Debbie: Favorite Michigan event or happening?

Carolyn: I have to say the July Ann Arbor Art Fair. When we lived downtown I would spend as much time as possible wandering around the different art fairs that go on during the same four days. I love looking at all the art; from crafty kitschy stuff to fine art. And there's always that year's fad of some sort of art-on-a-stick that everyone seems to buy, like license plate birdhouses or bugs with wiggly wings or a smiling sun. Now that we have been living in Arizona in the summer I've had to miss the art fair, which is too bad.

Debbie: A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Carolyn: Let's see, illustrators Chris Van Allsburg, David Small, Robert Sabuda, and Susan Hartung. (I know, not all these people live in Michigan any more.)

Debbie: Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about our state?

Carolyn: Lake Michigan has really great beaches.

Debbie: Some residents of Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: Are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Carolyn: Since I didn't grow up here, I asked my Michigan-native husband the question and he said it's definitely Michigander. But since I get to choose, I choose Michiganian. I like the way it sounds.

Debbie: Thanks, Carolyn, for joining us today for Michigander Monday!

1 comment:

Constance Mettler said...

Thanks for the kind words about the Ann Arbor Art Fairs. Right, it isn't the football games people miss, they really miss the ambiance of Ann Arbor in the summer at the fairs, it is so magical, especially in the evening.

I also live in Michigan and blog about the art fair business around the country.

But I have little grandkids and am intrigued by your titles and Carolyn's I am reading about today. I live in Patricia Polacco territory.