Friday, October 8, 2021

Interview with Nicole Magistro and Alice Feagan

Nicole Magistro and Alice Feagan are the author and illustrator, respectively, of READ ISLAND, a warm invitation for readers to journey to a story time taking place on a whimsical “island made of books.” All sorts of friends race to arrive “before the tale unfolds.” Readers, too, will find a “world of stories, safe and true,” along with these fine words to remember: “Books can take you anywhere.” The rhyming text is beautifully brought to life with mixed media collaged art.

Welcome, Nicole!

Congratulations on your lovely book! Where did you get the idea for it?

Books and nature are everything to me. When I set out to write a children’s book about the joy of reading, I knew it had to take place outdoors and not inside a classroom or a library. Books take us to amazing places, right? My lightbulb moment was connecting the real Read Island – our family’s favorite place to visit every summer – to that idea. Then, during the pandemic when we couldn’t travel to British Columbia, except in our imaginations, my 9-year-old son and I “visited” as often as we could through meditation. During one of these mental journeys, the symbolism of the place name became the story.

Why did you decide to self publish it?

After owning a bookstore for 15 years, I knew I wanted to spend more time on writing in the next phase of my career. But I also wanted to stay connected to the business of the book world, and I felt that I would learn an immense volume of things if I took the path to independent publishing. I’m ever an entrepreneur, and so I guess, rather than waiting for someone else to tell me that I could make a great book, I tried it myself.

Can you tell us about that process?

I believe there is a lot of opportunity for small presses to make books that matter and bring them to market more quickly than the traditional houses. Also, as a store buyer, I know that so many books get lost in big lists. To that point, I focus on making a book that is competitive on the shelf and in the category. Read Island had to stand up against picture books from Candlewick and Scholastic and Penguin Random House. And then when the reader opened it, the quality of the story and illustrations had to be excellent. Even better than excellent! I worked with an amazing group of experts along the way – Alice, of course, plus editors, designers, consultants, printers, publicists, and booksellers. Our team learns every day about the challenges of the supply chain and book marketing and kid lit. I’m really loving it.

Do you have any other books on the horizon?

Yes! But let’s not put the cart before the horse. I want to make sure this one is a success first.

And, welcome, Alice!

Why did you decide to illustrate this book?

Nicole was busy running her independent bookstore, The Bookworm, when I met her back in 2016. The Bookworm hosted a book launch event for a book I had recently illustrated and she and I casually talked about maybe someday down the road collaborating on something. Fast forward to 2020 and she approached me with this new manuscript. While I had not illustrated an independently published book before, I could immediately see some of the spreads and how my illustrative style could work well with her lyrical writing. We've worked very collaboratively together from start to finish and it's been a fun, exciting, and high educational experience!

Can you tell us how you made the art?

All of my books begin with hand drawn spreads which I then scan into the computer. I build the art in layers in Photoshop, first creating the shapes and then applying collage to them with clipping masks. The collage materials come from a large collection of papers, textures, and (in this case) many classic children's stories all of which I have amassed over the years. Sometimes I add depth and detail with paints, markers, crayons, etc. The approach and materials are slightly different for each project depending on the tone and content of the story.

Are you working on anything else?

I'm in the very early stages of editing a manuscript for a new picture book I'm pretty excited about. I'm also wrapping up some work for Boston Children's Hospital. Along with my projects, Nicole and I are always tossing around new ideas.

Thank you, Nicole and Alice!

For those in Colorado, here are a couple of scheduled story time events:
  • Wandering Jellyfish, Niwot, CO – November 4
  • Second Star to the Right, Denver, CO – November 8

Nicole Magistro is a professional reader and amateur mother who lives in the mountains of Colorado. She owned a bookstore for 15 years, wrote thousands of book reviews and memorized a few too many bedtime stories. Her favorite place in the world is the real Read Island, which inspired this story. Magistro is also a mentor, journalist, consultant, and community leader. She was the longtime proprietor of The Bookworm of Edwards, Colorado. During her tenure, she was the recipient of the ABA's Entrepreneurial Excellence Award, WNBA's Pannell Award and James Patterson indie bookseller grant. Magistro judged the Kirkus Prize for Fiction with Colson Whitehead and Megan Labrise, and has served various nonprofits including the American Booksellers Association, The Literacy Project, The Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association and Vail Mountain School. She received a Masters from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and has written for regional and national publications.

Alice Feagan is a children's book creator known for her distinct cut-paper collage style in The Collectors and School Days Around the World. Her lifelong love of storytelling and art making led her to the world of picture books where she creates playful illustrations for children's books, magazines, apps, educational products, and games. When she is not making picture books, Alice can be found reading them with her two young sons. She lives in Edwards, Colorado and is responsible for all of the art within these pages.

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