[Meet the Author] Jamaican Illustration Student Takes Innovative Approach to Publishing: Interview with Peta-Ann Smit

Jamaican illustration student Peta-Ann Smith talks to Summer Edward about her prospective children's book, Charlene's Quest (working title) and her unique crowd-sourcing approach to funding her children's book project.

Characters from Smith's prospective children's book

Peta-Ann Smith is a Jamaican illustration student, currently in her final year at Edna Manley College School of Visual Arts. She is the founder of the illustration studio, Langi Lala Studios. She is currently running an online fundraising campaign to cover the costs of producing her children's book. 

With just 20 days of the campaign left, Smith spoke to Summer Edward about her vision for her book and her innovative project.

Summer Edward: So tell us a little about yourself. What makes Peta-Ann Smith interesting?

Peta-Ann Smith: Since early childhood, I've loved reading, drawing, and Saturday morning cartoons, and I've always been creative in some way or form throughout the years. Langi Lala Studios, my illustration studio, was christened during a lunch break years ago (when inspiration strikes, it strikes in the weirdest places!). The name stems from one of the many nicknames I had as a very tall and skinny child, and it was a natural fit.

SE: You are raising funds for your Jamaican children's book project. What's the book about?

PS: I'm currently using a working title, Charlene's Quest, which may change as the story is fine-tuned. It's about a young Jamaican schoolgirl, named Charlene, with a powerful imagination and the animal friends she creates during her tumultuous transition from a country girl living with her parents and grandparents, to a new life in Kingston with her reluctant aunt/guardian and her mean-spirited cousin.

I initially envisioned Charlene's Quest for the 8-10 age group, but I want it to appeal to both child and adult readers. While it will have illustrations, Charlene's Quest will be a multi-chaptered (middle grade) novel rather than a picture book- a transition from picture books to pre-teen novels, so to speak.

SE: You're trying to raise USD $2000 using the IndieGoGo online funding platform. What costs are you hoping to cover with this money?

PS: Since I'm doing this book project for my Independent Study at EMC, I'm hoping to cover both printing and construction costs related to displaying my work for the final examination. Each student is required to design their exhibition space to complement their project's theme, which often includes painting, flooring, and wiring considerations. Depending on their project, they may also need to have items specially constructed - as is the case with me. While I have received some corporate sponsorship, that alone isn't enough to cover everything. Hence, I've decided to go the crowd-sourcing route via IndieGoGo.

SE: Ultimately, what are your goals for your children's book? Any plans to publish maybe?

PS: After the final exams, my goal is to formulate a proper outline for the book (possibly a series) over the summer, and use November to produce a first draft for Book 1. November has been designated National Novel Writers Month, and has been used by many Caribbean writers to create that important first draft of their stories. Aside from book publishing, I wish to explore licensing and merchandising for my characters, similar to The Bernstein Bears and Dora the Explorer. It's a step-by-step process, though, one I look forward to executing.

SE: This is a fundraising campaign with a twist. Contributors to your campaign can claim some interesting perks. Tell us more about that.

PS: Based on the amount donated, contributors will receive merchandise items from my project in return for their generosity: $5- character bookmark of the contributor's choice; $10- character bookmark and a postcard; $15- a bookmark; postcard and a pin-back button; $50- a signed black and white interior illustration print; $75- a signed black and white print as well as a signed coloured cover illustration print; and $100- both print types and a 12-month 2013 calender. As developing these items will be a process extending past June 2012, I will keep contributors updated via IndieGogo, as well as my art blog, my Facebook page, and Twitter.

SE: Someone is reading this and they want to find out more about your fundraising campaign and perhaps donate. How can they?

PS: Interested persons can visit my IndieGogo campaign directly, my LangiSketches art blog ), Langi Lala Studios' Facebook page, or they can send me a tweet if they wish to communicate personally.

SE: Thanks Peta-Ann and good luck with your campaign. I hope you surpass your goal!

PS: Thank you very much, and I hope so as well!



About the Interviewer

Summer Edward was born in Trinidad and Tobago. She is the Managing Editor and Kids Editor here at Anansesem. She holds an M.S.Ed degree in Reading, Writing, Literacy from the University of Pennsylvania. Her poems and art have been published in tongues of the ocean, BIM: Arts for the 21st Century, The Columbia Review, First Reads, Philadelphia Stories, St. Somewhere Journal and sx salon (forthcoming). She is a 2012 Writer-in-Residence with the Cropper Foundation Caribbean Creative Writers Workshop. She divides her time between Trinidad and Philadelphia, USA.

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About Anansesem

Anansesem is an online magazine of Caribbean children's and young adult literature by adults and children. We strive to bring you the best in news, reviews and creative content from the world of Caribbean children's publishing.
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