Spotlight on Writing

Mini Interview with Rhonda McCormack

photoI had the pleasure of meeting Ms. McCormack at a SCBWI get together a few years back. We have remained friends over the years, and not only is she a writer and artist, but also a wonderful lady who always has great insights on wellness and life. Her book Wildflowers was released in August 2012, and one lucky visitor will get an autographed copy!! (To enter, please leave a comment below. The winner will be picked at random next Thursday, June 6th.)

1. What is your favorite YA book?
 Oh boy.  This will be impossible to nail down.  But after a think, I do have a favorite novel about two young girls who transition through many living situations before coming into a unique arrangement with their mother’s younger sister.  The book is Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, and though it’s not officially put in the YA genre, it is some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever read on the young adult experience.  Another amazing (amazing!) book not in the YA genre but featuring young adult characters is Atonement by Ian McEwan.  These books have more adult themes and situations, but again, speak to the honesty of young adulthood.
As a young reader, I was drawn to authors like Judy Blume and Lois Lowry, who wrote the Anastasia Krupnik novels that still make me laugh today.  I also recall that the family’s copy of The Outsiders had smooshed corners and rumpled page edges from the many (many) reads it got.  Two others worth mentioning are The Chocolate War (Cormier) and The Last Unicorn (Beagle).
As for contemporary YA, I was deeply touched by A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park, though this is more middle grade than YA.  I also felt moved by The Book Thief (Zusak) and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian (Alexie), and most recently, I read Endangered by Eliot Schrefer and found the story so thoughtful and powerful that I’ve been referring left and right.  Oh, and there’s Hattie Big Sky (Larson) for good YA historical fiction, and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick My Ass (Medina) for a powerful narrative on bullying, and there’s John Green and Tom Leveen for authentic teen voices.
See how hard this is?  I could go on and on and on…
2. How does being an artist enhance your writing?

In any and every way I can think of.  The long and the short of it is that both can be meditative or generate energy, but moving away from words, sentences, structure and getting into the studio allows me perspective.  My art is less formal than my writing, and working on a painting while also working on a novel can open me up to that space where the writing flows.  It’s not always the case that I have both going at the same time, but I’m moving more towards that end.

3. Your book Wildflowers focuses on environmental issues. Tell us one change you have made within your home to be more environmentally friendly?

My interest in being a good environmental steward proceeded Wildflowers, and over the years our homes have just grown more and more Eco-friendly.  Some of the cooler things we’ve done include using insulation made from recycled blue jeans and installing a tank-less water heater, and I swear by using less toxic paints and cleaners.  I’ve also enjoyed finding product manufacturers who have an environmental philosophy outlined as part of their business model.  Room and Board and Flor are two companies I’ve found that are dedicated to using Eco-minded materials and production practices, as well as being committed to quality products and fair treatment of labor.

4.  What is your favorite thing about indie publishing?
The creative freedoms.  For writers, artists, and illustrators who would love to see the book they’ve imagined in their heads come to life exactly as they see it, Indie is a super cool option.  I’ve written a lot about the importance of quality writing, design, and marketing when deciding to enter the Indie movement, but if the creator is up for it, it’s a fascinating (and challenging) artistic experience.


Spotlight on Writing

Artist Interview with Rhonda McCormack

*Originally posted on 4-9-2011 at Karin Won’t Stop Talking blog*

Talk a little about how your artwork ended up at home-ology in Scottsdale, AZ?

I met the owners of homeology ( when they ran another boutique called Armoire Home.  Part of their vision was to sell home decor items that were hand-made, and I decided to approach them about selling my paintings.  The interesting thing about our relationship is that as I evolved into a more environmentally-conscience artist (and person), they were also transitioning into more eco-friendly home interior products.  They’ve been incredibly supportive and enthusiastic about what I offer them.  I fit their boutique philosophy because I’m local (shop local first) and I work in a ‘green’ space with as many ‘green’ and recycled art materials as possible.  I love the direction they’ve gone, they’re cool people, and they like my funky style just as much as my more refined work.  It’s a good match.

Discuss your environmentally conscience way of producing artwork and what Brought that about?

I’ve always been all in on the movement to support our environment, but this way of thinking really began for me about seven years ago when I became interested in organic food and farming.  I learned a lot about what’s good for the soil, water, and air.  And for plants and animals.  Oh, and humans.  From that point, it just seemed reasonable to incorporate healthy, responsible choices into all parts of my life.  How you do anything is how you do everything.

Describe the mediums you use?

I use mixed media on canvas for 90% of my work.  I use pre-stretched and gessoed canvas, and it’s not always easy to find eco-options here.  Hint: check out the wood used in the frame as this can be one area that makes a difference.  I also use acrylics and glaze, which can be found in eco-friendly versions.  I love paint, but I love- love art paper, including tissue paper.  The archival glue I use to adhere paper is always ‘green’ and I use less paint when introducing paper into a piece.  The texture and depth that paper brings to a work is unmatched, in my opinion.  And it turns out that I have friends and relatives who often use interesting art paper as wrapping paper and also make good tissue choices.  I rarely have to buy the papers I use in my pieces…recycling, anyone?  I’m now starting to use fabrics, too.  I’ve always collected fabrics, and again, these are “finds” and it feels good to re-use.

We recently discussed your compulsive issue to save tissue paper…what got you started with that art medium?

My tissue collection grew knowing I could re-use when wrapping my own gifts.  I’m a sucker for a great pattern or unique color.  But the inspiration for using tissue in art began with my love of collage.  I’ve always been drawn to artists (and this includes many picture book illustrators) who use paper (and other materials) in interesting ways.  For me, the transparency of tissue lends itself to my vision.  Which tends to be abstract.  And all about layering.

You are also a writer and illustrator, how does that lend to your work as an artist?

The jump from painter to illustrator goes both ways.  One inspires the other.  They are a yin and yang for me…you can see some of my abstract vision in my illustrations, and my eye for order in some of my paintings.  Also, I’m crazy about modern architecture and have created many pieces for my own homes, which have all been contemporary or mid-century modern style.  This influence is also in my illustrations where characters are surrounded by modern furniture in modern rooms housed in modern buildings.  The link between writing and art varies.  With my young adult or middle grade novels, the inspiration goes one way.  I’m not usually working on a novel and have an idea for an amazing painting.  But, many a plot or character development issue has been worked out through brush-on-canvas.  Art is a meditation that clears my head and gives me space work out an idea.  Now, I do have a few picture book manuscripts and this writing is almost always happening in tandem with the idea I have in my head for the illustration.  But that’s the nature of a picture book, a story told in words and pictures.  With novels, the words are the art.  I’m grateful for how it all works.

To find out more about Rhonda, and check out more of her artwork please visit: