Allison's Book Bag

Authors Weekend Ahead!

Posted on: September 23, 2011

Christelow is an author and an artist. For a peek at how she does her artwork, check out How Do You Do The Illustrations? To found out more about these jobs, check out the What Do Authors and Illustrators Do? page on her website. Do you like to write or draw? Do you have a preference?

I haven’t read Christelow’s book yet about illustrators, but tomorrow I’ll post my review of her book about authors. On Sunday, I also hope to post notes and photos about the Plum Creek Literacy Festival, where Eileen Christelow and other authors will present.

One of my favorite lessons to teach during our writing launch at school is based on a mentor text called What Do Authors Do? by Eileen Christelow. As I read parts of this book, I show samples of my own work. I bring in idea notebooks, along with old outlines, drafts, revisions, and even samples of rejection and acceptance letters. It’s fun to talk about the writing process and then to answer questions from writing students.

When I heard that Eileen Christelow was among the featured authors this year at Plum Creek Literacy Festival, I knew that it was time to purchase my own copy of What Do Authors Do? Hopefully, this Saturday, I can hear her speak and get my book autographed.

In the meantime, below is some background info about Eileen Christelow’s start as a writer and illustrator. Check back this weekend for a review of her picture book What Do Authors Do? I also hope to post notes and photos about the festival itself. Save the dates: September 24-25!

Her Start as a Writer: As with many authors, books were a part of life in Eileen Christelow’s family. Her parents read bedtime stories every night to Christelow and her brother. Her parents gave them books on special occasions. And her parents were readers themselves. Her father dipped into books from all topics, along with mysteries, and even comics. He bought the latter as soon as they hit the newsstand, lending them to Christelow and her brother only after he had finished.

Thanks to the the influence of a couple notable English teachers in the upper grades, Christelow wrote stories for her high school magazine and made plans to major in English in college. Unfortunately, freshman English was so tedious that she lost enthusiasm for that idea and instead enrolled in pre-architecture.

Everything changed again in her senior college year when Christelow discovered photography. Come back tomorrow to find out what happened next!

Her Start as an Artist: After college, Christelow began photographing buildings for architects and creating photo essays for small magazines on urban life: skid row, Chinatown, inner city schools, political demonstrations. Despite her interest in photograph, she apparently never lost her interest in writing. She began looking at children’s picture books in bookstores and at the library. She even read picture books to neighborhood children. Eventually, she started experimenting with her own stories, illustrating them with photographs or drawings.

Deciding that she wanted to try writing and illustrating picture books, she visited the library once or twice a week and borrowed piles of books to read. She started with an alphabet book, thinking it’d take a few weeks. Two years later, she reached Z! How did she first become published? Come back tomorrow to find out!

Her First Publication: While Christelow earned a living as a photographer and graphic designer, she continued to experiment with picture books. One job required her to design and illustrate a poster about animal camouflage for a science museum. The poster gave her the idea for her first published book: Henry and the Red Stripes.

As a side note, through her father, Christelow developed an interest in television shows with slapstick humor such as Abbot and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, the Marx brothers, and Jackie Gleason. In her online All About, Christelow notes that these shows probably influenced her picture books.

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