I reconnected with Carolyn Dee Flores at the International Literacy Association conference this past summer. She was bubbling with excitement over her forthcoming book, The Amazing Watercolor Fish (Arte Publico/Pinata Books) and I couldn’t resist asking if she would share some of the story behind the book with my followers. She graciously agreed and it is with great pleasure that I host her today.
The Amazing Watercolor Fish and Playdoh
By Carolyn Dee Flores
I think, first and foremost; The Amazing Watercolor Fish (Pinata Books) is a book about
making friends. Not only is it a book about making friends, it is a book which actually made friends, from the very beginning. And, I mean, from the very beginning.
The Amazing Watercolor Fish started off as a sketch.
(The fish made friends.)
It became a manuscript.
(The fish made more friends.)
The manuscript persevered and became a fully realized book dummy.
(The fish made even more friends.)
Finally, I took the book dummy with me to the SCBWI (Society of Book Writers and Illustrators) Book Conferences in LA and NY, where the fish met very special people. These people taught them the craft of making picture books.
(And, these people became lifelong friends!)
Of course, back in the studio, there were stalls and sputters.
But, it was only ever because I messed up – not the fish. I tried too hard, or over-analyzed, or became too serious.
Then, my husband, JC, would tell me:
Ask the fish. Listen to the fish. Be the fish.
And, that’s what I did.
The fish wanted to rhyme. So, we didn’t just rhyme. We rhymed in both Spanish and English.
The fish wanted to go from black and white to full blown color. I found a way to do that, too.
The fish wanted to play with people friends – for real. So, I took paintings of Ashley and Mikey along with me to my school visits.
Sometimes, children would walk right up to the paintings and introduce themselves to the pictures of the fish.
“Hi, Ashley. Hi, Mike. I’m Jasmine.”
(And, in this way, the fish made their very best friends, ever!)
Until, one day, Playdoh fish models emerged.
I spent three years making Watercolor Fish out of Playdoh.
The fish modeled for me in fishbowls…
as we all listened…
to all seven Harry Potter novels…
eleven times over…
because the fish love Harry Potter.
But, it takes a grand number of people to make a picturebook.
I must publicly thank my publisher, Arte Publico/Pinata Books; my art director, Adelaida Mendoza; my editor, Gabi Baeza Ventura; President of Arte Publico, Dr. Nicolas Kanellos, for his vision; and especially SCBWI and all the librarians who rooted for The Amazing Watercolor Fish from the beginning.
But most of all, the fish and I would like to thank the amazing Carmen Tafolla, who not only did a fantastic job on the rhyming translation in Spanish – but who also pushed the art of the bilingual picture book into new territory – by creating almost two books within one.
One day, someone will tell the watercolor fish that they are really only made of Playdoh.
But, I’ll be ready for that day.
I will sit them down, and I will say, “Ashley, Mikey, yes, you do have a little Playdoh in you. But, who you are and what you are made up of, deep inside and all over, is HEART. And, you have many, many friends.”
Carolyn Dee Flores is an author/illustrator and this is her 11th book for children. She wrote her first book when she was in second grade, and still carries it around with her everywhere she goes. She played in a rock band for many years, and wrote music and soundtracks for films and TV.
Carolyn loves living in the world of The Amazing Watercolor Fish… and thinks she will live there for many years to come.