Amanda Lewis - Author

Birthplace?
New York City, New York.

Birthday?
January 26th.

Where do you live now?
Brooke Valley, which is a very rural community outside of Perth, Ontario. It's in the middle of the woods.

When did you start writing/drawing?
When I was a child. I got my first rejection letter from Doubleday when I was eight. They were very encouraging!

How do you research or create your books/illustrations?
As a calligrapher, I spend a lot of time making art. I work with different papers, make books, play with letters and words. I use a huge variety of paints and pens. I write a book when I have something worth saying about all of this art making.

What are your favorite books?
Alice in Wonderland, The Golden Compass, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, The Maestro, Pride and Prejudice, The Thurber Carniva.

What are your favorite foods?
Anything Italian --- I make a mean risotto. I also love Thai food and make some pretty good spring rolls. When you live in the middle of the country, you learn how to make the things you love because the stores are too far away.

What was your training or schooling?
I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting from York University, and have studied calligraphy, bookbinding and related arts at numerous international workshops. I am actively involved with both my calligraphic profession and my theater profession.

How did you get involved with children's books?
After teaching hundreds of calligraphy workshops for children and adults, I decided that I wanted to formulate my ideas about letterforms. I wanted to try and communicate the passion that I feel about letters. My own children were just learning how to read and write, and I wanted to try and keep that magic alive. Because writing is magic. The ability to put your thoughts onto a piece of paper is something that we take for granted, yet it is one of the most startling things that humans have created. So I wrote my book Writing: A Fact and Fun Book to try and communicate how this extraordinary invention began.

Do you have any tips for young creators?
Write with pens and pencils that you like. Don't always use a keyboard. Enjoy the sensation of letters, the curling tail of a G, the fat belly of a B.

What things do you like the most about creating kids' books?
Writing about things I love. Sharing my passion and enthusiasm for what I am writing about.

Where do you work?
In various rooms in my house. I have a studio/office in which I make things and write in longhand. I have a computer area in the house that is separate from my studio. Writing on a computer is a very different task from making things or composing ideas.

Where do you get your ideas?
I am involved in several calligraphy and bookbinding societies and go to many workshops. I also talk to and work with artists in other disciplines, for example, jewelers, engravers and potters. Everyone has something to teach me.

What materials do you use to create your art?
I work with many different papers. Each has a different texture, surface, strength, as well as color and opacity. I calligraph with metal nibs or brushes, sticks or feathers --- whatever gives the right effect. The difference is in the final effect, but also in the physical sensation when I am working with them. I use a lot of natural elements --- bark, bits of fur, leaves, things I find on my morning walks.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
A bird.

What is the weirdest or most interesting job you've ever had?
My first full-time job was as a stable hand. I spent all day mucking out the stables of very expensive horses. I learned a lot about horsemanship and stable management. And about horse poop.

Do you have any special secrets or insights about one of your books or characters?
Rosie Backstage takes place in Stratford, Ontario, where my husband Tim and I met. We actually got married in Stratford because we love the town so much. The idea of Rosie playing MacDuff's son in the Scottish play came from friends of ours, whose daughter, our own daughter's best friend, played that role at the Manitoba Theater Center.