Angela was born in Mexico City, and grew up in Texas. She has authored and/or illustrated twelve children’s books to date, including 11 picture books and most recently, 1 middle grade book. In addition to her book creation efforts, Angela also teaches at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
How has reading influenced your life?
I don’t think I’d be the person I am today without reading. Reading gave me ideas and continues to do so. It also taught me empathy and gave me windows into other worlds.
There’s that adage, “Write what you know.” I happen to know my family very well. Maybe too well. ☺ I’ve included my mom, brother, and grandfather in several of my books like Knit Together, Stella Díaz Has Something to Say, and Sing, Don’t Cry. They shaped so much of my personality especially my Mom, who raised my brother and me on her own. Sometimes I wish I could be a fantasy author, but it’s just not in my wheelhouse…yet.
It’s important to me that my books are accessible to native and non-native speakers. With them in mind, I’m deliberate in the words and phrases I use. I want people to be able to infer what a new or unfamiliar word means based on the way it’s written and by the illustration. Beyond that, it’s making sure that the Spanish is universal. There are twenty Spanish speaking countries and each have their own a little twist. That’s where a great editor really helps.
I love teaching and especially love teaching children’s book illustration. It’s the ultimate way of exchanging knowledge and giving back. Illustration is a challenging industry, and anyone who can be successful should be applauded and celebrated.
Seeing my student’s ideas and work inspire me as well. The biggest thing with students is to get them to move past a single illustration. I love that moment when a student appreciates how one illustration works in conjunction with the text and overall design of the book. That’s when I know their thinking like a children’s book illustrator.
More and more, I think it’s being an author. I adore drawing. It’s what led me to my illustration career, but writing and conceiving a story is just an adrenaline rush.
Thank you! I was lucky to have a distinctive drawing style even in my art school days. I kept a sketchbook drew in it all the time. It’s there where I really developed my illustration style. Then I’ve just continued experimenting with different mediums.
The process for Stella Díaz Has Something To Say was a little unusual. It actually began as a picture book. It was just a simple story about a shy little girl at an aquarium who is too afraid to talk to classmate. I worked on it nearly a year with an editor before it ultimately was rejected by the publisher. They just felt it was unclear why Stella was shy and they couldn’t relate to her. Defeated, I abandoned the project for a while.
Luckily a few months later I began illustrating the Lola Levine series by Monica Brown. Reading chapter books gave me the inspiration to expand Stella’s story into a longer format. I filled my story with what I know; my family and my own experiences with being shy. I worked on it secretly by myself and with my agent. Writing a novel was something I always dreamed of doing, but it was scary to put myself out there in this way.
Eventually I found another editor to work with it on and it was picked up by Roaring Brook. When it came to the art, it was a breeze. Because of my sketches for the picture book, I knew what all the characters looked like so I just based them off that.
I have a few. I do quite a bit of school visits. I love to read How Do You Say? out aloud to large group. I have the kids read along with me. Nothing makes me happier then hearing them guess the word in Spanish before I turn the page. I also still love reading Let’s, Go Hugo. It’s such a personal story and the first book I wrote from start to finish.
I have a little set routine. First, I hit up my local library and bookstore. I find just looking at books inspires me. If that’s not working then a great movie, museum, or long walk outdoors usually does the trick.
There are so many! I’ll name two. I wish I could collaborate with Roald Dahl. James and The Giant Peach was such an influence on me. Since that’s impossible, I’ll say Lane Smith is probably my top pick.