Allison Wortche - A Lion & Dragonfly Interview
Fun fact: Alison Wortche, the author of Oliver's Lollipop, indeed has a serious sweet tooth. We're thrilled that she took the time to answer a few questions about how a dazzling, distracting lollipop inspired her lovely tale. This editor-turned-author also shares a few of her favorite children's books, her exciting future projects, and love of crisp new notebooks. Thank you Allison!
What was the inspiration for Oliver's Lollipop?
When I started writing this story, I imagined a little boy at the zoo with a lollipop as big as his head—a giant swirly rainbow lollipop that no kid could resist! I thought: what if that lollipop is so big and so dazzling—and what if he’s so enthralled—that he misses out on something even more special? So this is a story about learning to be present in the moment and open to the people and beauty around us. I was inspired by my own daughters, who head straight for the ice cream wherever we go(!), but who also remind me to notice and appreciate even the smallest things.
How did you come to collaborate with Andrés Landazábal on Oliver's Lollipop?
After my editor at Philomel acquired my text, we started discussing possible illustrators—and Andrés Landazábal’s name came up. I love the vibrant colors and energy in his art, and I’m so glad he connected with the story and agreed to come onboard. Andrés made Oliver and his world come to life. He captured Oliver’s anticipation and disappointment and joy—and my favorite thing about the illustrations is the way Andrés shows the sweet bond between Oliver and his little brother Louis.
What inspired you to become an author?
I’ve always loved to read. As a child, I constantly had my nose in a book, and as I got older, I started filling up notebooks with stories and poems. I had wonderful English and journalism teachers in high school, and I went on to major in English. I also worked at my college’s writing center, helping fellow students with their papers. When I graduated, I got a job at Random House Children’s Books. I was an editor there for almost 13 years, working with incredibly talented authors and illustrators. And all those experiences led to where I am now, dividing my time between freelance editing and writing.
What is your favorite place to write?
I have a teeny tiny office that started out as my daughters’ teeny tiny nursery, and that’s where I do most of my writing. It has a window with a view of our beautiful magnolia tree.
Do you have a favorite indie bookstore? What makes it amazing?
Bookstores have always felt so magical to me. My favorite shop growing up in New Jersey was Womrath's I remember walking through the tight, packed aisles, discovering new authors and books. That store has now closed, but serendipitously, my neighborhood bookstore in Westchester is a Womrath’s (the last one, I believe). They have a wonderful, welcoming children’s section; I could spend all day there!
What was your favorite picture book growing up? and/or What picture book do you never tire of reading to children?
One of my earliest favorites was The Best Nest by P.D. Eastman, and now it’s part of our regular bedtime rotation. I love the humor and the rhythm, and I remember those illustrations so vividly from my childhood.
My daughters have moved on from Sandra Boynton’s board books, but I could read those forever—especially Pajama Time and But Not the Hippopotamus. I also don’t think I’ll ever tire of Chester’s Way by Kevin Henkes, Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller, or Red Sings From Treetops by Joyce Sidman.
What children’s book (other than your own) are you recommending to friends at the moment?
Do you listen to music while you are working? If so, what’s currently on your playlist?
I don’t listen to music while working, since I like to hear the rhythm of each sentence, and for me, music sometimes interferes with that. But when I’m not working, our house is full of music (piano, violin lessons, lots of singing!).
It’s back-to-school season in Virginia (where Lion & Dragonfly is based). We have to know: What is your favorite school supply?
I can’t resist a freshly-sharpened box of pencils. And notebooks! Blank, beautiful, oh-so-inviting notebooks.
Are lollipops your favorite candy? Or do you have another favorite?
I have a serious sweet tooth. Lollipops, jelly beans, and pretty much any kind of chocolate.
What are you currently working on?This week, I got to peek at the art and layouts for my upcoming picture book, which will be out next summer from Knopf. It’s called Ruby and the Itsy-Bitsy Icky Bug, illustrated by the amazing Sally Walker. It’s about a spunky little girl with a big personality who’s enthusiastic about pretty much everything . . . except bugs—in particular, the yucky, icky bug that’s clinging to her window and will not go away. It’s been such a fun book to work on, and I can’t wait to be able to share it!