Name Rita Goldner
Where are you from?
Scottsdale, Arizona, USA
Fiona: Tell a little about yourself, i.e. your education Family life etc.
I have a degree in elementary school education, and have always loved children, teaching, and drawing. I’ve combined all three in becoming a picture book author/illustrator
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I just finished a picture book Making Marks on the World. I’ll be picking up my first printer run tomorrow.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I started in earnest ten years ago, writing picture books, to combine my two passions, story-telling and drawing.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When my publisher submitted my first print book, Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy to a prestigious contest for books about the natural world, and it won a silver medal. I was flabbergasted!
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I took a class on writing and illustrating children’s picture books taught by an author/illustrator who since became a Caldecott Honor recipient. She got me hooked; it was a lot of fun, so I signed up for the advanced class.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
My audience is young, so my style is simple and the pictures are colorful and whimsical.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
My publisher helped me come up with the Orangutan book title, and my critique group suggested the other title, Making Marks on the World.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
In Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy I hope the readers fall in love with orangutans and maybe when they grow up they can do something to help endangered species. However I didn’t mention anything in the book about their critically endangered status, since it’s a problem kids can’t solve, and it would make the book sad. In Making Marks on the World my message is that kids can learn in non-traditional ways.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Making Marks is fantasy and time-travel, but the places the protagonist goes to are real. The orangutan book is scientifically accurate. I did a lot of research, and had it fact-checked by a primatologist who runs a foundation that rescues and re-habilitates orphaned and injured orangutans in Borneo.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
My mentor is Molly Idle, the author who taught the first writing/illustrating class I attended. When my own kids were small, I liked reading Richard Scarry books, mainly because he drew busy, madcap, detailed drawings. I loved Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, again, because of the illustrations.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
My teacher Molly Idle’s work impresses me because she’s written several wordless picture books. This is especially challenging, since the story is conveyed through facial expressions.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
While I was writing the orangutan book I corresponded with orangutan experts. They were an important part of my research. My critique group helps too, we meet monthly to bounce ideas off each other.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I am retired from another career, so I vowed I would only do what was fun, but so far, this is a blast! I work almost full time now writing and illustrating.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
It’s so new I haven’t had time to think of that yet. But I’m having it printed in small batches, so I can change something if I get negative feedback. The first book had a run of 1000 copies, so it had to be as perfect as I could get it. That book is almost sold out.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I wrote poems and short stories as a kid, and a few articles and news releases as an adult, but never considered doing serious creative writing until I took that children’s book writing course. Since then, I’ve taken dozens of classes, seminars, and webinars on the craft of writing and illustrating.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Making Marks on the World is about a boy who dislikes school but learns through drawing and painting. He’s assigned a history report, so decides to draw and paint it by time-travelling to places and years where people have used art to leave a mark on the world. (cave paintings, King Tut’s tomb, etc.) The reader can color the line drawing illustrations. I also put the coil binding across the top, for left or right-handed coloring. I’m a southpaw, so I was always annoyed by my hand resting on the binding when I colored.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Even though I enjoy it immensely, it’s challenging to budget time. I’m also doing marketing myself, which I enjoy, but it’s a steep learning curve.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I do a lot of readings at elementary schools, but only in neighboring cities. I’ve driven to do weekend book fairs in Tucson, Payson, Prescott, and Sedona. Those cities are about 100 miles from me.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I did the illustrations and my editors cropped them and picked out the font.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Finding a “voice” not too formal, that would appeal to a child.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned how important it is to communicate with children and get them to love reading. Toward that end, I really like doing the school author visits.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
The Orangutan book would have to use a digitally created orangutan, because I wouldn’t allow a real animal to be exploited. In the Making Marks book, my protagonist boy has spikey red hair, which is my silent homage to Van Gogh. So any day-dreaming 3rd grade red-haired kid would do.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Join a writers association and meet other authors for networking in marketing and critiquing. Take classes and read how-to books on plot and character developing, and finding your “voice”. Hire a professional editor. Read voraciously.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Read with discernment, so you’ll learn to tell good books from not-so-good. Discussing them with your friends will help this.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
The Longmire series of novels by Craig Johnson. The characters were in a Netflix series, but the books have different stories. (And last week I got to meet Craig Johnson and shake his hand at a book fair, where we both had booths!)
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I remember the first book I took out of a library. It was The differences Between Crocodiles and Alligators. Even as a young kid I was intrigued by science and animals.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Human interest stories.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
I’d like to go to Borneo and meet the primatologist who fact-checked my book, and see his rescue center, and the wild orangutans in the rainforest.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
“She tried to make a positive difference in the world.” Because that would be the greatest compliment I could receive.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Sewing and painting landscape plein air (on location, outdoors).
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I don’t watch much TV, but when I do, it’s cowboy movies.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Foods: Anything, as long as someone else is cooking. Colors: The cool colors of nature: greens, blues, violets. Music: Rock. (I take a Zumba class, and love dancing.)
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I already had a 38 year career as a costume designer before I started writing. For something completely different, I guess I’d be a forest ranger.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I have a website www.ritagoldnerillustrations.com
And a newsletter http://shoutout.wix.com/so/3LhQU9GZ#/main