Friday, February 14, 2014

SCBWI Team Blog Exclusive: Marla Frazee Love Fest!

Just in time for Valentine's Day I present to you a Marla Frazee Love Fest!

Winter Conference attendees are in a for a fabulous treat, one of our faculty members is the one and only Marla Frazee.

To me, Marla will always be one of the first children's book illustrators who gave me tough but tender career advice, the stuff you really need to hear to get your work up to snuff and noticed by art directors and editors. I spent a week in her class at the Haystack conference in Oregon and she taught me to see children's books and my budding career in entirely new ways. I loved her class so much I considered moving to Pasadena just to be one of her pupils at Art Center.

But don't take it from me, take it from some people that know Marla pretty darn well and are titans of our industry. First, her longtime friend and editor, Allyn Johnston, VP and Publisher of Beach Lane Books:

Here are Allyn's Five Important Things about Marla:

1.       She makes one of the best hummuses around, and her secret ingredient is the fresh pomegranate seed garnish.
2.       She has a crazy-but-wonderful-but-crazy young dog named Toaster who looks like a coyote and with whom she hikes in the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains most every morning.

3.       She collects vintage ceramic shoes, probably because as a child she adored this tiny chipped vintage blue ceramic shoe that belonged to Fattie, her beloved Lebanese grandmother’s sister.

4.       On a related topic, probably her most prized possession is this stove, which belonged to Fudgie, that same beloved grandmother. (It is also Marla’s cat’s very favorite spot to nap—and who could blame him, because the pilot light is always on!)

5.       And don’t ever offer her dark chocolate if you can help it. With Marla, it’s excellent milk chocolate all the way. In fact, she always has a secret stash of Lake Champlain Organic Milk Sea Salt & Almonds Chocolate Bars hidden away in her 1926 Spanish bungalow in Pasadena, California. But don’t ask her where she hides it, because she won’t tell you.

Some of Allyn's favorite Marla illustrations:
From GOD GOT A DOG by Cynthia Rylant

Last page of ALL THE WORLD by Liz Garton Scanlon

Next up is Grand Poobah of San Diego and Marla's super Writers House super agent Steven Malk:

Things Steve loves about Marla:

1) She takes her work so seriously: I've known very few people who approach their work with as much passion, honesty, and dedication as Marla.  If she has to do 25 sketch dummies to nail the right approach to a book, she'll do that.  If she has to redo a final painting 50 times to get it right, she'll do it.  You always know that when Marla's done with a book, she's given it every last piece of energy, will, and creativity that she has.  She's left it all on the page.

2) She doesn't take herself seriously: Marla has a great sense of humor and she'll be the first one to make fun of herself.  She's also not precious about her work and appreciates complete honesty.

Some of Steve's favorite Marla illustrations:

Two from the amazing MRS. BIDDLEBOX by Linda Smith
3) She's intellectually curious: I've always been struck by the fact that Marla is always curious to learn and discover new things, whether that's in terms of books, illustration, writing, music, movies, politics, food, or just about anything else.  She's one of the best listeners I've come across and you get the feeling that she's always trying to pick things up, process them, and use them in interesting ways.

From the #1 Christmas book, SANTA CLAUS, WORLD'S #1 TOY EXPERT
4) She lets each project lead her but also thinks in terms of her body of work: Marla approaches each project from the point of view of whether it's exciting her creatively, whether she's the right person to tackle it, and if it's the right time to do it, or should be revisited later.  She shuts out all external factors during this process and if she has a true passion for the project and it feels right, she won't let anything stop her.  At the same time, I think she's very aware of the larger body of work that she's been building, and whether certain projects make sense within it.  It's a body of work that's incredibly diverse and far-reaching, but there's an organic nature to it all that I really admire.

5) She's a voracious reader: Marla is constantly at Vroman's looking at new picture books.  And old picture books.  And novels, and poetry, and just about everything else.  She approaches the business first and foremost as a reader and a fan. She told me recently that she was going to a reading and she sounded downright giddy to meet the author.  I think that's one of the key ingredients to her success: she's never lost that feeling of pure unadulterated joy that the right book can bring you.
From Woody Guthrie's NEW BABY TRAIN

And finally, Marla's fellow Haystack faculty member and all around mensch, Newbery Honor winner Kirby Larson:

Top Five Favorite Things About Marla:

1. We are both crazy about red shoes.
2. The fact that she has drawn Santa Claus — an anatomically correct Santa Claus.
3. Her sly, wry sense of humor.
4. The way she channels Coco Chanel, in dress and in dressing up a dorm room. 
5. Her heart, which is as big and bright as her smile.