Julia Seal has created a picture book that is basically the story of my life! This lovely book, THE SKETCHBOOK is for all the born artists in the world. Julia stopped by to tell me more about it...
e: Is THE SKETCHBOOK an autobiography? I can relate - I was that kid too!
I didn't intend it to be autobiographical but I poured so much of myself into writing the book, that it did end up that way! It was actually only after my husband had read it for the first time and said "So it's about you?" that I realised! I was always quite shy growing up and definitely better with pictures than words. Like the girl in the story, I've found my confidence through my art.

e: Can you walk us through your process for THE SKETCHBOOK?
The idea came to me a few years ago and for a long time I was scribbling notes and playing with different storylines. I had this picture in my head of a girl running down the street with the wind swept pages of her sketchbook blowing all around her. The drawings actually came before the text! After I'd created a few images, and with a collection of rather sporadic notes scattered across many sketchbooks, the story suddenly came together in my head and I sat down and wrote the whole thing in one go!

e: It’s hard to believe this is your debut picture book. Wowsa, what a debut! What was your path to publication?
I've been drawing and writing stories ever since I can remember! In the past I've always illustrated other peoples books whilst secretly longing to write myself! After creating the text and a few sample images for THE SKETCHBOOK I sent it to my agent just in time for the Frankfurt Book Fair. After a long and nervous wait, I received an email telling me that Peter Pauper Press were interested in publishing it! Because of the time difference (America/England) I got the email about 11 o'clock at night and I was so excited I woke up the whole house to tell everyone! Peter Pauper Press and especially my editor Mara, were amazing at helping me edit the text, whilst giving me lots of freedom with the illustrations! And a year later I can't believe I have a copy of the book in my hands!

e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of THE SKETCHBOOK?
The idea actually came from watching my four-year-old daughter on holiday one year. She had a tiny notepad that she would take everywhere with her. In restaurants, on the beach, in the car - she was constantly scribbling 'important' things down. She wouldn't let anyone else see! Eventually, I had a peek when she was asleep one night and the notepad was filled with the most detailed drawings alongside lines and lines of funny symbols which she thought were letters! I couldn't understand any of it but it made me smile!.. And gave me a good idea for a story!

e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
I love images with a magical element - pictures so full of imagination that you can't stop looking at them and the more you look the more incredible detail you see - for me that's what Heart Art is. It's the joy of being able to look at the ideas in someone else's head, they enable you to see the world in a different way.

e: How do you advertise yourself?
I'm not very good at advertising myself! I usually leave that to my agent whilst I get on with drawing! However, I have recently joined Instagram (@julia_seal_illustration) and I'm enjoying sharing my doodles and ideas on there. It's really encouraging to read everyone's comments! I've also been on a few school visits recently. It's lovely chatting with the pupils about the process of creating picturebooks and the children are always so enthusiastic!

e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
I'm so lucky to be able to make a living out of something I love! I'm constantly drawing and writing, whether its for work or for pleasure! I guess one of the challenges that comes from this is knowing when to stop and take a break! When your home is also you office, you can end up working all the time!

e: Is there something in particular about THE SKETCHBOOK you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
I guess I want to encourage readers to have confidence in themselves and their abilities, and to share what they love!

What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Julia: I'm excited to be developing two more stories at the moment! One tackles the issue of plastics in our ocean from a child's point of view. This is something that really came to my attention after reading an article a few years ago about a whale who had died after eating more than 80 plastic bags! The other story is a more light-hearted look into overcoming funny childhood fears. It's a story I made up for my son when he was little but I have only just got around to writing it down!
e: Great - I can't wait to see them!

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