Rosemary Wells - Illustrator
Rosemary Wells has been writing and illustrating children's books for more than 30 years. Books like Noisy Nora, Yoko, and the McDuff and Max and Ruby series have become classics, tackling timeless topics like sibling rivalry, feeling out of place at school, and being the middle child. Wells is also a strong literacy advocate who encourages all parents to read aloud to their children regularly.
RIF: You've written books for both young readers and older kids. Do you have a preference?
Rosemary Wells: I enjoy both and having the chance to take a break from one and do another is always refreshing.
I have 10 books in the works now. But I can only do one at a time. I’m doing a picture book and then I’ll revise a novel, then I’ll do two picture books. The picture book I’m working on now is called Carry Me. It features characters from Voyage to the Bunny Planet.
A change is as good as a rest, and that applies in this instance.
RIF: Did your own children read your books?
RW: Yes they did. They learned to read off Noisy Nora. But they enjoyed other people’s books too. One of their favorites was Father Fox’s Pennyrhymes. Our whole family had that memorized.
RIF: Did they recognize themselves in any characters?
RW: They know they are Max and Ruby. They don’t mind at all.
RIF: You're not a big fan of TV. Did your children ever watch it?
RW: I watch very little beyond news. My children grew up with no TV at all and have decided to do the same with their own children.
Books should come before computers and TV. Kids shouldn’t have them before the ages of 8 and 10. Children’s minds need to be taught imagination and critical thinking. We have to develop these skills in every generation. We can’t sit around and pretend that’s happening now.
RIF: What were your favorite books as a kid? Did you like books with lots of words or picture books?
RW: Both, depending on what age I was at what time. I read and re read everything there seemed to be published for children, which was not like the tsunami of books available today. My favorite book was Mr. Revere and I by Robert Lawson.
RIF: Growing up, did you want to be a ballerina or an actor, since that's what your parents did?
RW: No I didn’t. I had no interest or talent in dancing. To this day I am a terrible dancer and not a musician at all. I might have been attracted to the stage but got waylaid because I was an artist and writer first.
My parents respected this and like most people in the ballet my mother was horrified at the idea of her child going through the Spartan discipline, competition and nomad existence that she lived and a real life in ballet means. They were also relieved that I was not headed for any actor’s life either since under the tinsel is trouble. That is how they saw it. I was much more talented in baseball than ballet anyway!
RIF: Do you have any pets? If so, have they been in your books?
RW: I have had a West Highland terrier or two for 33 years. They appear in the McDuff books.
RIF: How do you come up with new characters?
RW: I don’t really know …everything comes to me from the clouds. It is a writer’s job to have ideas and that is my work. How it happens is unexplainable and when I try it diminishes the clouds!
RIF: What advice do you have for kids who want to be writers or illustrators?
RW: Don’t try to get published now! Don’t let any teacher or parent try to motivate you or try to get your work published. You have to wait for that until you are in your 20s at least. When you’re in high school, you can publish in the lit magazine or newspaper. Those are good ways to get your work in print. Don’t try to go to a serious publisher with a children-written book.
Try to make up everything you write and draw from yourself and what you see around you, not from TV or the movies! Don’t let them be your inspiration. They don’t produce good writing. Look at real world, not virtual world.
If you’re going to be an artist, go to the library and look at Illustrators Annual. It’s a terrific place to begin to learn about how various artists put things o paper. You can see the huge range of styles and interpretations of the real world. Look carefully at the work of other artists. Make it part of yourself. Look at it for hours. In order to be come a professional artist, you have to look at others’ artwork for hours and hours every week
To be writer, you have to read a thousand books. Only in that way can you learn to use our wonderful language. Writing is all about other people enjoying what you have to say.
Learn more or get in touch with Rosemary Wells at her website.