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Author Interview with Gina Rizzo

How did you become a writer?

I have always free-written and written poetry. My dad was a poet and an artist. My mom was from the south and had the gift with clever language that is common among Southerners. When I was little, she played a rhyming game with me. I was in the tub, and she would say a word, and we would rhyme as long as we could and then pick another word when we ran out of rhymes for the first word. I have always lived in diverse communities and been a part of diverse social circles. I noticed that children’s literature did not reflect that diversity. I started directing my mind to writing kids books that reflected my diverse world.

What inspires you to create?

Everything inspires me. I find myself noticing something, my cats, or kids in my neighborhood, trees, animals, everything. I make myself laugh with the stories I imagine. Sometimes I have an overwhelming emotion and need to express it. The world is amazing, and I like honoring that.

How do you develop your plot and characters?

I start writing stream of consciousness, usually with a bunch of poorly-written rhymes or ideas. The characters are birthed in that gibberish. Then, with the help of critique groups, I apply plot rules to my free write and develop a plot arch to figure out where to put the peak, rearrange my words, and sometimes something compelling emerges.

Could you share some of your challenges as a writer/ illustrator?

I have dysgraphia, which is a language output disorder. It is a learning disability like dyslexia, but dyslexia is a language input disorder. Writing is painstaking for me when I need to emulate writing conventions. I have something I want to say, so it is worth the effort. It is the only way I know. Finding a great copyeditor took a while. Also, insecurity, how to revise, the infinity of image choices, and balancing my style with what I think others will like can start to paralyze me. I go with my intuition and do what seems the most beautiful and makes the most sense. I need other peoples’ points of view too. Sometimes I write something I think is brilliant and take it to my critique group and discover I haven’t expressed myself very well. Rewording everything is daunting, but it is thrilling to have a good story show up after revising that is not just in my imagination, but other people see it too.

What are your current/future projects?

I am working on illustrating a story to help kids deal with loss and death called ZooZoo is Gone. I wrote it with my friends’ grandkids in mind as I watched them try to deal with their uncle’s death. They were three and five.

Do you have a routine you follow when writing/Illustrating?

I always have something around to take notes with. Whenever I have an idea, I write it, record it, or dictate it no matter how hair-brained it seems. I start every day organizing my day, reading, and listing gratitudes. At the new moon, I list my goals for the month and put them in categories: career, home, school, and so on. I beak my goals down into steps and then layout my weeks so that I dedicate a day/s or four-hour increments of a day to a category and the next task in line to complete my goal in that category. I don’t let myself be distracted by anything else when I am working on a task, like, no laundry when I’m drawing.

If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?

I would have liked to have taken my two-dimensional artwork and writing skills more seriously and dedicated more time to building my skills in both, being in critique groups, and doing more illustration exercises.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers or artists?

Hone your craft. Keep practicing, get help, find a mentor--someone who has some of the skills you want and ask them how they did it, become a member of an industry group, and participate in all the activities you can to build your craft. Stay focused and keep it up. Keep moving toward your goals.

* What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you?

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