Meet Rising Star
Author-Illustrator Anita Crawford Clark!
Anita Crawford Clark states that artistic expression and storytelling always seemed like DNA traits that went hand in hand. Everyone in the family were natural storytellers. But according to her mother, Anita’s artistic talent came from being born with an individually creative soul and with an infectious happiness about ostensibly mundane experiences. Perhaps those combined qualities led Anita into developing her thoughtful reflections and artistic depictions celebrating ordinary Black life and culture. Anita’s art focuses on the heart and soul of Black culture, community, and daily life.Her artistic compositions, like her literary prose, include scenes reflecting symbolism such as shelling black-eyed peas with Grandma, fishing on a favorite riverbank, tending the garden, and participating in church service. Like some early nineteenth century creators, Anita feels that the symbolic value or meaning of a work of art emanates from the re-creation of emotional experiences in the observer through color, line, and composition. The important aspect of her art is its universality. While at first glance, her compositions seem germane to Black culture, it is representative of human qualities of any culture – love, fear, heartbreak, loss, grief, joy, hope, etc.
However, Anita is not limited in one style or medium. She has also mastered multiple creative mediums as she captures Black Americans’ struggles and trials that also convey perennial hopes and dreams. She is ever learning new artistic skills and nuances in expanding her artistic pallet. Anita welcomes the opportunity to create something special for everyone who engages with her art.
Anita lives in Sacramento, California with her husband and youngest daughter. The mother of two older daughters and three grandchildren, Anita enjoys time with family, outdoor activities, sports, and music. She attended Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles for two years, earned her BA in Sociology from UC Davis, an MFA in creative writing and MS in media psychology. She has taught K-12 for 25 years.
Anita is seeking agent representation.
Hi Anita, and welcome to the blog! I’m so excited to have you here and chat about all things writing, art, and creativity! I’m already blown away by your background and look at the amazing details and textures in your art! Gorgeous! I can’t wait to learn more!
● Coffee, tea (or neither)? Tea.
● Where is your safe place? My writing and drawing studio.
● Dogs, cats, (or neither)? Both, but right now we have a Guinea Pig.
● Early bird or night owl? Early bird, very early.
● Three words to describe what it takes to make it in the kidlit world…
1. Passion 2. Persistence 3. Paying it forward
Please dish us the dirt on who you are and your journey into the fabulous world of children’s books.
AD: Did you always know you wanted to be an author-illustrator? Have you explored other paths or had/have other jobs?
AD: What topics or themes do you tend to focus on in your writing/art? Favorite genres you like to write in or favorite art materials/techniques?
ACC: My favorite themes in writing are centered around history, family values and traditions, and the live experiences of people. I love doing research and learning new things. I also enjoy themes on well-being, coping and positive psychology. Mostly, I desire to tell stories in words and visually that allow readers to step into their potential and power. I wish for my words and images to inspire a sense of self-worth and resilience. Words and images that resonate on a deeper level and encourage my readers to reach higher, go farther and laugh louder.My artistic flavor leans towards soft pastels. I love this medium, although it is quite messy. I also love collage. I enjoy finding unique and interesting papers and patterns to incorporate into my art work. Other mediums and techniques also pique my interest and I explore them as often as I can.
AD: Breaking into the publishing industry is not easy! What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced thus far? What have you done to persevere?
ACC: There are numerous challenges when one endeavors to break into a specialized field. For me, one of those challenges was losing my mother to cancer and my brother to a stroke. It was not easy to stay focused on my writing and art. And after some initial rejections, I put this dream on the back burner – but I never let the flame burn completely out.
Ironically, it was during the initial shelter-in-place orders in March, 2020, that I visited that back burner. I knew now was the time. I dusted off some old manuscripts, wrote some new ones and started creating some new art pieces. But what really blew my mind and amazed me, was the writing community – particularly on Twitter. I had been away for a while and everyone embraced me when I eased my way back in.
Storytelling comes naturally to me. The work for me is revising that story into a manuscript that is worthy to be on a bookshelf one day. That is the work. That is why I am and will continue to grow my storytelling skills. I desire my writing and illustrations to be equally dynamic, engaging, and entertaining.
AD: I’m so sorry about your mother and brother, Anita. Losing loved ones is never easy. I’m glad your creative flame is burning strong once again-a bright spot amidst this crazy year. And yes, the kidlit community on Twitter is amazing! So supportive, generous, and so much knowledge! I feel connected to so many people I’ve never met but hope to one day!
AD: As creators (and humans), we tend to focus on the flaws of our creations or areas for improvement. This helps us grow and develop, but we need not forget the many things we are doing well. With this in mind, what has been your biggest accomplishment or something you are most proud of thus far on your writing/illustration journey?
ACC: For me, submitting my manuscript, putting myself and my work out there for others to love or reject, that is something I’m happy I have had the courage to do. Going for a dream, I mean really getting after it, is not easy. But putting your dreams out there is what it takes in order to realize those dreams.
AD: Yes! Vulnerability is a part of this game. It’s not easy but it is necessary if we want to get our stories out in the world and into the hands of young children. Kudos to you for taking that step and chasing your dreams!
AD: In a similar vein, what do you feel are your strengths as an author/illustrator? What makes your art/writing unique to you?
ACC: It is our lived experiences that make anything creative people do unique to them. It is the same for me. No one has lived my life, seen what I have seen through my eyes, experienced people, places and events the way I have experienced them. This is what makes my writing and illustrations unique.
AD: I love this and completely relate. No one can write your story but you!
ACC: My dreams inspire my work. Children everywhere inspire my work. My faith in God and God’s creation inspires my work. My family inspires my work. My love of books and learning and growing and giving inspires my work.
ACC: I am one of those people who writes best when the inspiration for a new story or illustration hits me. If I am able to get to a piece of paper or my computer, the ideas flow effortlessly. This happens often for me. I just need an inkling of an idea and I am off to races. The only time I really feel stuck is during the revising process. When I do get stuck, I either do some research or look through some aspect of a writing course that I have taken. If that does not work, I step away from that project and try to do something fun and entertaining.
AD: What sorts of things have been most integral in your growth as an author-illustrator?
ACC: Engaging with the writing community on Twitter, SCBWI and taking courses such as Storyteller Academy, Children’s Book Academy and Visual Storytelling courses with Larissa Marantz, and #BlackCreatorsInKidLit, have been absolutely phenomenal for my growth. This list is hardly exhaustive. I could go on naming Twitter events such #PBPitch, #DVPit, #FaithPitch and #FallWritingFrenzy. These events gave me the opportunity to share my stories with the world. As I mentioned, this takes tremendous courage. As I said, I love research and learning, so I am always reading and gleaming from any source that will inch me one step closer to publication.
AD: Thanks for this wonderful list! So many great communities to learn and grow from!
AD: What advice do you have for fellow kidlit creatives?ACC: I would advise kidlit creatives to be true to their voice, even if they think they haven’t found it yet. Be true to your artistic expression. It can be tempting to try and fit into the box one thinks agents and publishers want, but I cannot see how that would be rewarding or interesting. Be you. Do you. Share you. Love you.
AD: Brilliant! 🙂
Twitter @AnitaLCkalr and Instagram @Anitasfavpics and my website is acrawfordclark.com
Stay tuned on Monday where we get to meet another Rising Star in Kidlit, and be sure to subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss out, and follow along on Twitter at #RisingStarsinKidlit.If you are interested in being featured in the Rising Stars in KidLit series, please complete the following Getting to Know You form to be considered. Thank you!