This month we welcome author-illustrator Wendra Lynne to our Member Interview Series. Wendra’s many years working as an Art Director/Production Designer for such commercial clients as Disney, IBM and American Express were the backdrop to her recent career as an artisan and picture book creator. Her debut, self-published picture book The Wondrous Cloud Forest (December, 2020) features tree kangaroos in Papua New Guinea to help tell the story of how everyone can have a hand in saving our planet’s natural resources.
Where did you grow up, and how did that place (or those places) shape your work?
I grew up in the city of Los Angeles, or The City of Angels. I have always felt guided by angels. Growing up, I also spent a lot of time climbing the tree in our front yard and creating stories in my imagination, in which I would travel far from the congested city to be in nature.
Did you always want to be an author and illustrator, or did that come later?
My teachers in commercial art school encouraged me to create children’s books because my work had a “child-like” quality. I was young and naive, so I interpreted this as meaning my work wasn’t mature enough for the commercial world. Much later, after years of art directing television commercials, I realized my personal passion was to write and illustrate books for children and parents to enjoy together.
If someone were to follow you around for 24 hours, what would they see?
My friends say my spirit animal is a butterfly because I’m constantly flitting about. I often start my day practicing yoga. Next, I attend to my jewelry business; I design and sell magnifying glass necklaces adorned with semi-precious stones and crystals. Then, I switch around between painting, writing, teaching watercolors, and meditation. I like to switch between creative projects to gain new perspectives. In the afternoon, I go on a bike ride or play tennis with my husband. In between everything, I do laundry, garden, visit my mom, and toss the frisbee for our pup. I like making a delicious dinner. After we eat, my husband plays guitar while I read; then we’ll watch a movie or satirical show.
How does your everyday life feed your work?
My everyday life is quite flexible because I work at home, and I believe flexibility feeds my creativity. I like to incorporate creativity in everything I do; so for instance, my mom lives at a residence for seniors, and I teach watercolor painting there every other week. Connecting with my daughter is another thing I do every day that feeds my work. Some days we FaceTime for an hour and other days we only have time for a quick text, but she is always a huge inspiration. My husband and I both work from home, and since he has an MFA, I often get creative encouragement and feedback from him. Then there is our pup, whose sweet, gentle spirit inspires me daily. His relationship with a squirrel in our backyard inspired my most recent picture book: Fluff McDuff and Squirrelly Whirly!
Tell us about some accomplishments that make you proud.
The combination of self-publishing, writing, and illustrating a picture book while recovering from breast cancer treatment was a huge accomplishment for me. I learned so much about myself and about the business side of the children’s book industry.
What surprises you about the creative life?
To quote my husband, “How much work it takes to be a slacker!” 🙂 But seriously, for me all of life is a creative endeavor, so every day is a wonderful surprise.
When a reader discovers your work, what do you hope they find?
I hope readers find words and images that make them smile and touch them emotionally, so that they feel inspired to face the challenges that they want to overcome.
Your book has been displayed on the “New & Noteworthy” table at Book People; what’s new and noteworthy for you lately?
What’s new and noteworthy for me about The Wondrous Cloud Forest is to be able to share an optimistic story about people collaborating to protect the planet from climate change, in a way that is positive and a win-win for all involved. I added coffee to the watercolors for my illustrations to emphasize how the people of the cloud forest are now growing coffee to provide for their families in lieu of deforesting the land and hunting endangered species for their sustenance.
If you could jump into any painting and live there for a while, what painting would it be?
I’d love to jump into one of my cloud forest paintings and cuddle up with the tree kangaroos among the ferns and flowers. Great question!
Would you rather laugh in the daylight or dream in the dark night?
I love to dream in the daylight and laugh in the dark night! I truly am a daydreamer and I believe in laughing in the face of darkness.