A Conversation with Author/Illustrator Ann Koffsky
Shalom, yeladim! It is with great pleasure that I welcome author/illustrator Ann Koffsky to the Yeladim blog. Ann's fabulous books include the Kayla and Kugel series, What's in Tuli's Box?, and her newest title, Under-the-Sea Seder, which came out yesterday from Apples & Honey Press.
Stacy: Welcome, Ann! Congratulations on your new book. Tell us a little about Under the Sea Seder. How does Under the Sea Seder fit in with your other books about Jewish holidays?
Ann: I think is my first Jewish holiday book that is more of a fantasy. The Kayla and Kugel series for example, is concrete and reality-based. This one is all about imagination--so it’s a whole different thing.
Stacy: You are both an author and an illustrator. Talk about how you combine text with illustrations to create picture books.
Ann: When I make a book, I don’t really separate them into the two pieces. I mean, I do, because one requires a keyboard and the other a paint brush! But they both work hand in hand; they are both tools I utilize to tell the story.
Stacy: Why do you write Jewish-themed books? Why do you think it's important that Jewish books are published these days?
Ann: I write Jewish-themed book because of the classic cliché: write what you know! This is what I know. It also happens to be what I care about, too. So when I dream up stories—those are what show up.
Stacy: Do you engage with other authors/illustrators often? How? How does this affect your writing/art?
Ann: 100%! I’m in a couple of wonderful writing groups, and I participate in several illustration crit groups too. This impacts my writing and art in lots of ways! The critique from peers makes things stronger; it also is nurturing and supportive. It helps you know when yes, you’ve got something here! Or in many other cases…not so much!
Stacy: What does literary success look like to you?
Ann: I recently got a text from a friend that her 2 year old was running around her house screaming the main character’s name from one of my books. THAT is the best literary success—I connected with a reader!
Stacy: How long on average does it take you to write and illustrate a book?
Ann: Forever? Too long? Each project is different honestly. Sometimes an idea shows up fully formed; other times I pound away at an idea for months, and then put it away, and pound on it again years later.
Stacy: Tell us what about a few picture books you've enjoyed recently AND projects you have coming up!
Ann: I loved The Tower of Life by Chanah Stiefel. Such a magnificent, moving approach to celebrating life and memory after tragedy. I have also recently gotten into the work of Steve Light, like SWAP! which tells a story through very few words, but hugely detailed illustrations. And I’m really loving seeing the new Jewish board books that I got sneak peaks at by Varda Livney, Vivian Kirkfield, Sara Aroeste, and Nancy Churnin. SO great to see all those new Jewish board books, meant for the littlest readers.
This summer, my new accordion/board book SHEEP SAYS SHALOM will be coming out from Green Bean Books. I’m so excited by the opportunity to create a story with such a unique format.
I’ve also just completed KAYLA AND KUGEL’S SILLY SUKKOT and am just beginning work on KAYLA AND KUGEL’S PLAYFUL PURIM, with Apples and Honey Press. I’m thrilled that that series is continuing.
Finally, a book that I worked on with Temple Grandin, VISUAL THINKING for young readers, is due to come out this year as well.
Stacy: Wow! You have a very busy 2023! I hope you have time to enjoy all of your great success. Thank you so much for speaking with me today, Ann.
Ann: Thank you so much for hosting me on Yeladim!