Pat Cummings - Illustrator
Pat Cummings is the illustrator of the Coretta Scott King Award winners My Mama Needs Me, written by Mildred Pitts Walter, and Storm in the Night by Mary Stolz. She is also the author/illustrator of the Harper Growing Tree books, My Aunt Came Back and Angel Baby, and serves as an instructor of children’s book illustration at the Parsons School of Design. Her cat, Cash, occasionally models for her books, as do family members and friends.
RIF: What was it like being an army brat and growing up all over the world?
Pat Cummings: It never seemed unusual to move every two or three years when I was a kid because all of my friends had the same lifestyle. Looking back, I'm particularly thankful that I got to experience different cultures and learned how to adapt quickly to new environments. It's a great way to grow up.
RIF: Do you still like to travel? What's your favorite place to visit?
PC: I love visiting different places but getting to them can be grueling these days. I have too many favorites to pick just one.
RIF: Do you get letters from readers? What have been your favorites?
PC: The best are the ones in which the writer tells me something about themselves. I love the drawings that I get and the imaginative writing, too. I remember one letter from a girl in Texas who said that she had just gotten a new swimsuit and it was "pink in the air." I imagine it might have looked purple in the water ... but I'm still wondering about that line.
RIF: Did your parents read to you growing up?
PC: Definitely. Everyone in my family was a reader when I was growing up and we all still are.
RIF: What was your favorite book as a child?
PC: When I picked up The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, I went right through that closet door and never quite came back. I was amazed by the world that C.S. Lewis created and immediately accepted the idea that magic existed right on the other side of reality. I recall being so engrossed in that book that the imagery was as vivid to me as if it had been a picture book. It was the first fantasy I remember reading and one of the best. I suspect it had an influence on why I wanted to invent stories of my own.
RIF: Will you osee the movie version that comes out in winter 2005?
PC: Of course! I've seen different versions of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe already and the truth is, no version could be more delicious than the one that takes place in your head when you're reading the actual books.
RIF: What kinds of stories are you drawn to, both as a writer and an illustrator?
PC: Fantasy is a treat to illustrate, but I really love funny stories. I like to read about well-drawn characters who have such appealing personalities that I'd like to know them myself. I also love non-fiction, a little mystery (nothing tooooo scary) and adventurous stories. So a funny, fantasy adventure with a good mystery and interesting characters that also teaches me something is my absolute favorite. Sounds impossible? I thought Holes by Louis Sachar was just that.
RIF: I read your younger brother Artie has been an unwitting character in some of your books. Which books feature him? Does he mind?
PC: My first book, Jimmy Lee Did It, was about Artie's imaginary friend. Clean Your Room, Harvey Moon! was about his messy room. In Petey Moroni's Camp Runamok Diary, he was Petey. In Angel Baby, he was the baby. He does show up quite a bit but I keep changing his name ... he doesn't find my version of his childhood to be as amusing as I do. I believe he secretly likes being the star of the books, though.
RIF: What children's book character are you most like?
PC: Interesting question. I used to feel I had a lot in common with Pippi Longstocking. I liked her independence and can-do attitude. Right now I'm working on a story with a character named Tulip, and I¹m afraid she¹s got a lot of me in her.
RIF: Do you have a favorite age group to write for?
PC: The picture book crowd has been my favorite age group for the longest time. But I'm writing a series for middle grade readers with author/illustrator Sheila Hamanaka and I'm loving it!
RIF: What advice do you have for kids who want to be authors or illustrators?
PC: If you want to write, write. If you want to be an illustrator, draw. Fill up journals and sketchbooks using every technique and style that interests you. And whatever you do, read! Read. Read. Read. Nothing helps your see what makes a book work like reading will.