A fashionista at heart, Vanessa Brantley-Newton didn’t foresee herself as a childrens book author and illustrator, especially considering her struggle with dyslexia. But nowadays, with close to fifty books under her belt, including one for actress Tori Spelling, its safe to say she is a success with children and adults alike.
Still sporting a touch of Jersey sass, the amiable Charlotte transplant recalls the unlikely path to her current vocation. I was sketching fashion all through high school, but it was a really difficult profession to break into at the time, so my teachers pushed me into childrens book illustrating. She hasnt looked back, and took publishers new requirements in stride, which say that illustrators must also be able to write their own books. While dyslexia remains a difficulty, Brantley-Newton says the most difficult part about writing is coming up with a story and letting it tell itself. Then youve got to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks.
The self-professed child at heart with a rolling, infectious laugh explains that writing for children is actually more complex than writing for adults. They [children] dont need it dumbed down. You want to take them on a journey, on an adventure, with stories that are applicable to their lives and stretch their imagination.
Brantley-Newton garners her stories from people in her life. The idea for her most recent book, Dont Let Auntie Mabel Bless the Table, came from her experiences with a friend who would say seemingly never-ending prayers before dinner. Almost every child can relate to enduring a devastatingly long wait time before devouring whats on the table, especially around this time of year. When shes feeling low on inspiration, Brantley-Newton gets a pick-me-up from a popular website. Im a big fan of Pinterest, she says. I say, Im going to find things that inspire me. Ill pin in the bathroom, Ill pin anywhere.
While Brantley-Newton recognizes the sheer volume of available childrens books, she doesnt view her fellow authors and illustrators as rivals, and wants to spread the same message to her readers. I do what Vanessa does. Nobody can do what I do. Thats what I want to get out to kids: Stop measuring yourself by everybody around you.
Brantley-Newtons books are available online and at Barnes & Noble. For information visit www.painted-words.com/newton.html.