Sunday, April 13, 2014

#SCBWI-WWA14: Keynote Speaker Renata Liwska

Keynoter and illustrator Renata Liwska interviewed by her husband, Mike Kerr.

Our first keynote of the day is Renata Liwska, illustrator of gorgeous books like The Quiet Book, The Loud Book, The Red Wagon, and, most recently, Once Upon a Memory (among many others), positively bubbles over with excitement. She is effusive about her process, in how she compares her taste in her projects to a nice espresso ("nice...and buttery!"). She says she goes inside her head, thinking about what makes her laugh, or cry, or a specific memory from childhood. The Warsaw, Poland native (who now calls Calgary home) grew up with images and moments that she deliberately wanted to put into her books. Her Catholic upbringing had particular visual resonance for her, the groups of children she walked to and from the religious classes with. She noticed animals, woods, and a particular (and creepy-sounding) man who wore a sock on his hand. Needless to say, they ran away from him!

Renata sees the sweetness in things, and animates her figures with the remembered sighs and emotions from her girlhood. She preferred the pictures in books to actually reading them. Imitation, even the ornamental lettering, was a favorite pursuit. "You go back, you try to capture those emotions," she said, smiling. Ironically, it wasn't until later in life, after her choosing pictures over words, that she found out she was far-sighted.

Her images have such close ties to her growing up "on the other side of the Wall," but ultimately, she utilized her rich tapestry of an imagination to create some of the most memorable picture books and illustrations for children in circulation today. For a list of her books, and more information about Renata, click here.

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