Interview by Nina Lesowitz
From insurance representative to award-winning children’s illustrator, member Alexandra MacVean tells us about the life-changing events that lead to her rewarding career change.
“I’m a full-time freelance children’s illustrator and have been for over 3 years now. Prior to illustrating, I worked in the business/financial field for 13 years with State Farm Insurance Company, and thoroughly enjoyed my work. However, in 2012, I made a tough decision to resign my position with the company to return to school and finish my college degree.
“In April 2014, I was in a serious car accident one month away from graduating. The next 10 months were spent recovering. When November 2014 rolled around, my college professors began tutoring me, so that I could graduate. In May of 2015, I graduated with honors, earning a Designated Psychology Degree.
“I decided to focus more on my illustration work so I took online classes and landed my first job as a children’s book illustrator. My latest project, Ladybug! Ladybug! received two book awards.
“I’m currently working on illustrating a 5th children’s book for the author Charlotte J. Rains, entitled Meagan’s Wish, which is due to be released soon. My very own (and first!) book is due to be released soon as well: A Little Woodland Story focuses on various woodland animals. It’s a coloring book that tells a holiday story about coming together to help one another along the way.”
What advice would you give fellow members who may be interested in writing a children’s book?
“Writing and/or illustrating a children’s book takes time! One thing I’ve heard over and over (from agencies, publishers, editors, etc.) while attending various conferences is that a solid, good book takes AT LEAST a year to complete, sometimes longer. Here are some tips:
- Research your topic: Get to know what or who you’re writing about. Any missed detail, children WILL pick up on. And make sure your illustrator captures everything you write about. For example, if you mention Mr. Squiggly the mouse has a hat and your illustrator doesn’t give him one, that’s not good!
- INVEST in your work: There are a lot of free online classes as well as Facebook groups for authors and/or illustrators. I would encourage individuals to invest in paying for at least one or two courses/conferences. There are two that have been SUPER beneficial to me and my career: 12 x 12 Challenge hosted by Julie Foster Hedlund and Picture Book Summit.
- Join a local writing group: It’s great not just for feedback, but to engage with others who have the same/similar goals as you do.
- Have PASSION: Without
havinga passion for what you do, you’ll find yourself running in circles, going nowhere. LOVE what you do. I love children! After overcoming a childhood of horrible abuse, my goal has been to give to children hope, love & joy.
- TAKE TIME for YOU! Whether it’s reading a book, going for a walk, sitting in the window of your favorite coffee shop, taking time to replenish and revive your creative spirit is important.
“In the coming year, I plan to begin illustrating my second book, Miss Betty and Her Trail of Teapots, while also continuing to illustrate the Flitter Flutter Crawly series. Other projects will be having a teapot illustration come to life as actual tea cups and writing my second online watercolor course, Watercolor 102.”